Some Like Them Hot. She Likes Them Homegrown.

Annie Novak in her apartment in Brooklyn, a few blocks away from where she grows hundreds of chiles at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint.

Working at a farm in upstate New York after college, Annie Novak was startled to see people carrying vials of hot sauce like lucky charms. “It was winter,” she said. “They were putting drops in their hands and licking them to stay warm.”

As a child in Evanston, Ill., she had always eaten “very simply,” she said. “Chile peppers were like the Wild West for me.” Now, Ms. Novak, 33, grows hundreds of chiles at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, a perch three stories up, sprawling 6,000 square feet over a former warehouse on the waterfront in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Credit...Krista Schlueter for The New York Times

In her apartment a few blocks away, the harvest fills her kitchen: chiles pickled in Mason jars, or crushed and tossed with sea salt, or distilled and lurking volcanically in bottles with red caps like panic buttons.

They hang in bunches, too, dried bouquets of banana peppers, tabasco, jalapeño, cayenne and varieties of NuMex originally cultivated at New Mexico State University, whose chile program dates from 1888. “This is one of the crops where it matters to have an heirloom,” she said. “The heat has been bred out of so many.”

Ms. Novak stumbled onto her calling in Ghana, where she spent a junior year abroad from Sarah Lawrence College. She had planned to study oral storytelling until a fellow student offered to show her the cocoa plantations run by his father, a businessman and the chief voodoo priest of his tribe.

After three hours of hiking, she asked when they would get there. “This is it,” he said. And suddenly she saw the cocoa trees all around them. “It was the first moment I thought about where food came from,” she said.

When her father died in her senior year, she wanted to be sure she could take care of herself, and found a model for independence in the farmers she met. She graduated from college on a Friday, and the next Monday she went to work at New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. She works there still, 11 years later, bicycling all the way from Greenpoint.

In 2009, Ms. Novak and a colleague were invited to plant the first seeds above Eagle Street by Broadway Stages, a television and film production company that owns both building and farm. (Shortly afterward, “The Good Wife” began shooting downstairs.)

Credit...Krista Schlueter for The New York Times

She soon discovered that microgreens thrive with chiles as neighbors. “God bless New York, you can always count on a chef to buy microgreens,” she said. From May to October, with the help of a small part-time staff, she sells herbs, vegetables and hot sauce to restaurants like Marlow & Sons, and to intrepid shoppers who, on the last Sunday of each month, wind their way up the three flights of stairs.

In the off-season, Ms. Novak used to travel to farms around the world. But she hasn’t been able to slip away since she accepted a full-time position at the botanical garden in 2011 and started writing her first book, “The Rooftop Growing Guide,” which was published in February.

Her last long trip took her to Tanzania, where she spent a night in Jane Goodall’s house among baboon skulls and collected salt born of the ancient springs of Uvinza. “I wasn’t anybody’s boss,” she said wistfully. “I was learning.”

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