WHAT ARE CHILI PEPPERS?
Technically these are fruits from the nightshade family and so a close cousin of tomatoes and eggplants. Originally from Central and South America, this popular ingredient in its dried form can be found all over the world. They come in different sizes, colors and strength. Its unique spiciness is due to a compound called capsaicin (found only in the chili pepper). The most popular variety, jalapeno, is a particular favorite in Mexican cuisine. However half of the global production of all spicy chili peppers comes from China. Ironically while they are still called “peppers” in English, this name was given by Christopher Columbus who mistook them for black peppercorns. While discovering stuff was definitely his forte, naming……not so much (wait, what do you mean this new continent I discovered isn’t India????!)
WHY ARE CHILI PEPPERS GOOD FOR YOU?
While the compound capsaicin causes your mouth to incorrectly think it’s literally burning, the chili pepper is a very healthy ingredient in general. Made up of mostly water and some carbohydrates, they’re rich in vitamins C, B and K as well as the minerals potassium and copper. Chilis are also common homeopathic ingredients for pain relief and weight loss.
WHEN ARE CHILI PEPPERS IN SEASON?
Different varieties thrive in different environments, but in general this is a summer crop. And the hotter the summer the hotter your chili pepper will taste! Though temperatures over 90F (32C) can be too much for many plants.
HOW SHOULD CHILI PEPPERS BE STORED?
Most are dried and hold up very well in cool kitchen pantries. Pickling is another option! Fresh peppers should be refrigerated and consumed within a week or 2 depending.
WHY IS DRINKING WATER AFTER EATING A SPICY CHILI A BAD IDEA?
Because capsaicin is not soluble in cold water. Drinking water doesn’t dilute the fire in your mouth, it just spreads it around. The good news is that this compound is soluble in alcohol! So ironically the stronger the drink you pair with this pepper, the quicker it will dissolve.