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Sunday, 10 July 2016

Ted feels the heat


… whether you call them capsicums or peppers or chilli peppers doesn’t really matter ... they are all fruits of the capsicum plant.  What sets them apart is well ... everything really – where they originated, size, shape, colour, and last but certainly not least, how hot or not they are ...

The compound responsible for the heat in peppers is called capsaicin and in all mammals, including us clothes wearing bipeds, it produces a burning reaction when it comes into contact with our mucous membranes - and not just those in our mouth - don’t believe me ok then poke a little bit of a fresh hot chilli pepper up your nose and see how that feels … on second thoughts don’t try that at home folks. It also causes us to secret a lot more gastric acid in our stomach’s sometimes arduous attempts to digest this little burning horror.

The amount of capsaicin in peppers is measured on something called a Scoville scale which rates them in heat units ranging from the charmingly benign bell pepper at zero all the way up to the Haberano family (that sounds like gangsters doesn’t it) weighing in at third place at over 500,000 units. Second is the frankly frightening Bhut Jolokia, also known as the Ghost Pepper (presumably cos you think you’ve seen one after eating this little number) at just over a million, and then the Daddy of them all … the aptly named Trinidad Scorpion at close to an atomic 1.5 million units.

 Anybody else feeling the heat yet?

The highest concentrations of capsaicin are to be found in the white membranes that nurture the seeds, so it’s a good idea to remove these bits. The seeds themselves do not contain any of the “c word” death juice so the birds happily scoff them and then do their usual bit for plant distribution.

Capsaicin is the key active ingredient in defensive pepper sprays, which are commonly used in riot control as well. Medicinally, and rather ironically, it is used as an analgesic usually in creams to relieve pain. Interesting fact - it is a banned substance in equestrian events because of its hyper-sensitising and pain relieving properties, and in the 2008 Olympics four horses were disqualified after testing positive.

Oh yeah … I almost forget … lots of peppers are not very hot at all and taste simply delicious …

4 comments:

Jenny Woolf said...

Very useful discovery, hot peppers!

Sharon Anck said...

Great story about peppers. One of these days, I'll tell you my story of my uneducated encounter with a bunch of jalapeños. It makes me laugh every time I think about it.

William Kendall said...

No spicy peppers for me, thank you very much!

Lowcarb team member said...

Some peppers are just too hot!

I prefer using the not so hot ones in my recipes!

All the best Jan

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