Chili Peppers: Cardiovascular Benefits?
A substance that gives cayennes, jalapenos, habaneros and other chili peppers their hot taste also may protect against heart disease, according to research presented at the 243rd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society. The authors do caution against consuming excessive amounts of chlies in an effort to reap potential benefits.
In any event, the more you know about peppers - and the more you use them, the more you stand to gain from them! So here are some pepper facts to get you started.
Sides of peppers should be firm. Do not purchase dull colors, or ones with soft areas. These usually indicate decay. Refrigerate and use within three days. High in vitamin A and C, peppers are available all year.
Varieties include habanera, poblano, chile de arbol, pimento, Anaheim, banana, Hungarian was, cayenne, Serrano, mexi-bell, jalapeno, casabel, ancho, cuanelle, cherry and bell.
When cutting hot chili peppers it is best to wear rubber gloves so that your hands will not be burned and you do not rub your eyes. If you get hot pepper juice in your eyes you will never forget the experience.
New Mexico has one of the lowest incidences of heart disease. Researchers say that it is due to the high consumption of chili peppers, which are grown there. Over 55,000 tons are eaten annually in New Mexico. They may also lower blood fat levels and increase the blood coagulation time.
Chili peppers contain oil that will actually burn your skin. You can get relief by washing the area with white vinegar.
Chilies are probably the oldest known spice having been found in archaeological digs in Mexico that have been dated to 7000 BC.
Chili peppers were burned by American Indians when they were fighting off the invading English. The fumes kept the English at bay.
Capsaicin gives chili peppers their hot bite, but the seeds and outer and inner walls are not the hottest parts. The inner membrane that holds the seeds is the hottest part of the chili pepper, almost 100 times hotter. The alkaloid capsaicin found in peppers is proven to numb pain when applied topically. Capsaicin enters nerves and temporarily depletes them of the neurotransmitter that sends pain signals to the brain.
Southwestern chili peppers have complex flavors with varying degrees of heat. For example, the Anaheim packs some heat but with a terrific southwestern flavor for flavoring salsas if you like them on the mild side.
When grinding dried chilies, beware of the chili dust in the air, as it can irritate your eyes and your throat.
Roasting pimentos are best for roasting because they tend to have a higher sugar level and roasting brings out their deep sweetness and makes it silky smooth.
When making stuffed peppers, coat the outside of the pepper with vegetable oil and it will retain its color.
Stuffed peppers should be cooked in muffin tins to retain their shape.
If hot chile peppers and sweet bell peppers are planted near each other in a garden, cross pollination may occur, causing the bell peppers to be spicier.
Tabasco Pepper Sauce, invented in 1868, is made by mixing crushed peppers and salt in white oak barrels and letting the concoction age for up to three years.
Ease the Burn of Chili Peppers
The best way to ease the burning sensation of a chili pepper is to drink milk, or eat yogurt or any other dairy product. A substance found in dairy products known as casein, helps to disrupt the reaction. This substance, acts like a detergent and literally strips capsaicin from its receptor binding site. If you get the oil on your skin, you may want to rub it with rubbing alcohol first, then soak in milk, this seems to alleviate the burning. If you get it in your eyes, the only thing you can do is repeatedly rinse with water or saline. Be very careful when handling hot chiles, especially pod types like habanero as there are reports of these chiles actually blistering the skin. Gloves are recommended when handling or peeling any types of hot chile.
There are absolutely no varieties of peppers that are poisonous; all capsicum species are edible. Some of the ornamental varieties just don't taste very good, while others are extremely hot or pungent, which may lead to this misconception; however, there is an ornamental plant called a False Jerusalem Cherry, botanical name, Solanum Capsicastrum, which is poisonous and not intended for consumption. It is not a chile plant, only a relative.
As chiles ripen, the pods become more firm. A gentle squeeze of the pod is the best method to test when to pick a chile. If the pod is firm with a slight crackling sound when you squeeze it, it should be ready.
Sweetened Jalapeno Peppers
These fiery peppers are a sweet treat for chile lovers.
1/4 cups fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Place the jalapeno slices, sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and cook until the jalapenos are cooked and the liquid has boiled down to a thick syrup, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool and then transfer to a thick glass container and refrigerate. Makes 3 servings.
Nutrition information: Calories: 76; Calories from Fat: 2; Fat: 0.2g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Carbohydrates: 18.9g; Dietary Fiber: 1.1g; Protein: 0.5g
Did You Know?
- Two of America's founding fathers, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, are both known to have grown chiles.
- Eating chilies is addicting! How? When capsaicin comes in contact with the nerves in your mouth, pain signals are sent to the brain. Subsequently, the brain releases endorphins, natural painkillers, that create a feeling of well being. The more spicy food ingested the more endorphins released. The effect is a pleasurable feeling that true Chile heads crave.
- Six of the hottest peppers are the habanero, Thai chiltepin, Tecpin cayenne, de arbol, serrano and jalapeno.
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