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Why are Chile Peppers Hot?

Cooking tips for the caring cook.

Chile Peppers

It's All in the Ribs

The heat in chili peppers is generated by a substance in the interior ribs or strings of the chiles, rather than in the seeds.

Since the seeds are in such proximity with the veins, they carry the essence of hotness. In general, the smaller the pepper, the more potent its "bite".

Peppers which are harvested have often reached their maximum degree of hotness; peppers left on the vine to dry become somewhat sweeter, rather than hotter.

If you find the heat in a particular chili pepper too hot after eating, try a dairy product, like milk, yogurt, or ice cream. Dairy products contain a chemical called caisen that combats the effects of chile peppers' capsicum.

Research says...

Research indicates that chili pepper plants may have developed their signature heat as a way to fight off fungal infections caused by insects. When insects bite into the flesh of a chili pepper, it provides an entry point for a microbial fungus known as Fusarium that can destroy the pepper plant's seeds.

Freeze 'em!

Chili peppers can be frozen and should be washed and dried, placed on a cookie sheet and frozen. Bag and place the frozen peppers in a freezer and they will be much easier to thaw because they won't be frozen together.

How to Dry Your Own Chile Peppers

Tie the stems onto a sturdy piece of twine, placing chilies close together and making the strand as long as you wish. Hang in dry area with the air circulating freely around the strand. In several weeks, chilies lose their brilliant hue, changing to a deep, glistening red; they will feel smooth and dry.

How to Peel Fresh Chili Peppers

To peel fresh chili peppers, first roast them under a broiler or on a long fork over a gas flame. Turn often until the skin is charred all over. Then immediately seal in a plastic or brown paper bag for 15 minutes. The skin will peel off easily under cold running water.

Did you know?

  • For the most part, green chilis are fresh, while red ones are dried.
  • A teaspoon of red chili powder meets the recommended daily allowance for Vitamin A.
  • Some cultures put chili powder in their shoes to keep their feet warm.
  • Your can store red chili powder from 6 to 12 months, depending on the storage environment. Keep your red powder in the refrigerator as it is much safer than keeping it in a cupboard or near the stove.

Chili Pepper Health Tip

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