Fire it up
For many of us, we can get used to sticking with the same tried-and-true crops; the ones we know we like and will eat. The one we know will not offend or shock us in the garden, kitchen, or local neighborhood pot luck. While this strategy is a great place to start, why not step out of the comfortable vegetable zone this year and try something that will make you sweat, squirm, and eventually, smile. This season is a perfect time to get started on some hot peppers and to pique your interest, let’s get to know these spicy characters!
Centuries before the creation of the Scoville heat test, around 7500 BCE to be more precise, people in the Americas cultivated and used hot peppers as a staple ingredient in their diets. Though technically peppers are considered a berry, they are often used in both sweet and savory dishes and can be incorporated fresh or dried to add heat and flavor to a variety of dishes, such as chocolate or Chiles Rellenos! The compound that gives hot peppers their infamous heat is called capsaicin. Interestingly, cultures which utilize capsaicin regularly in their diets are often located in geographically warmer climates, which can seem paradoxical considering capsaicin tends to raise the body’s temperature slightly. However, breaking a sweat is one of the only natural cooling mechanisms the body has, and for humans that have limited access to food, breaking a sweat while not expending precious calories is a critical development for survival.
While many people find entertainment in sweating it out by sampling spicy morsels from Scoville’s scale, capsaicin can also be useful for healing or pain management purposes as well. Traditionally, capsaicin was thought to be a pain substitute whereby patients would inflict a burning sensation on their bodies to distract from their main source of pain. Although this is not the way capsaicin works in the body, using it as a healing compound is actually somewhat effective. In reality, capsaicin works to exhaust pain receptors to that they become less sensitive over time. This is why consuming small levels of spicy foods over time can increase one’s tolerance for heat and therefore, expand one’s palate for adventure!
Here at Mountain Valley Seed, we have a variety of hot peppers to try this season; everything from the mildly tingle Jalapeno Tam to the tear-inducing Scorpion Butch T pepper.