You cannot eat at Hot Stuff Mon, located in the historic downtown area of St. Augustine, but if you are a fan of spicy food, you want to know about this little grocery store. The small, peppercentric shop carries sauces, salsas, foodstuffs and condiments of all degrees of hotness from pinging to stinging to sadistic, but its unique specialty is the datil pepper and the many uses to which St. Augustine natives have put it. My favorite is the eye-opening pepper jelly (great with cream cheese on crackers) and I have become good friend of a ferocious powder known as lust dust, which local cooks use as a secret ingredient in chowders, stews, and chili.
Among the shelves of sauce, rubs and preserves are packets of seeds for people to grow their own. Most datil peppers come from backyards in and around St. Augustine, with only a few local small commercial growers. If you are a jelly maker or salsa maker and run out of your own crop, it is highly unlikely anyone else will be willing to sell you theirs. “The crops are small enough that everybody holds on to what they grow,” explained proprietor Chanel St. Clair. Local folklore says the peppers are so precious that growers use alligators as sentinels to guard their crop.