We experience chili peppers as hot and spicy because of the capsaicin molecules that reside primarily in the ribbing and seeds of the pepper. The heat level in each pepper varies depending on factors like soil conditions, rainfall received, number of seeds inside, and age.
The endorphins produced by the nervous system in reaction to the capsaicin molecules can produce something akin to a runner’s high. The more you eat and even just handle capsaicin rich foods, the more you build up a tolerance to them, and crave more.
Chili peppers can be used to add spice to soups, salsas, and dips. Chop them up and toss in with both sweet and savory dishes. They can also be dried and ground.
Place unwashed peppers in a paper bag or wrap them in a paper towel in the refrigerator; they will stay fresh in the fridge for up to a week.
Capsaicin isn’t water soluble, so the best relief for burning hands, eyes, or stomach is going to involve oils and fats. Acidic lime or lemon juice will also work for burning hands or skin. Olive oil is another help for burning fingers.
If you’ve accidentally rubbed your eyes after touching hot peppers, whole milk will be your best friend. Fill a small glass or shot glass with milk and hold it up to your eye to flush it out. The fats in the milk will help wash the capsaicin away.
Taming the Heat
Since the seeds and ribbing are the hottest part of any pepper, getting rid of them is a good place to start if you want the flavor of the pepper without the heat. A melon baller or a spoon is a useful tool in removing the seeds and ribs of a pepper. To do so, slice the pepper in half lengthwise then run the melon baller up the inside of the pepper, starting at the tip and moving toward the stem to scoop out all seeds and inner ribbing. Cooking the peppers also reduces their intensity, and brings out a richness of flavor.
In addition to multiple varieties of sweet peppers, we have many types of hot chili peppers in our produce boxes each summer and fall.
Santa Fe Chilis