A Curiosity: Hot Peppers – Why Are They Hot?

Once in awhile I find something that piques my interest that is different from the usual WUWT fare. This was one of those. I like this fellows blog because 1) I like hot peppers 2) I enjoyed his writing style 3) Given all the hot talk on climate lately, this seemed like a good topic to cool everybody off with  – Anthony

Hot Peppers – Why Are They Hot?

From a Blog around the clock by Coturnix

Some plants do not want to get eaten. They may grow in places difficult to approach, they may look unappetizing, or they may evolve vile smells. Some have a fuzzy, hairy or sticky surface, others evolve thorns. Animals need to eat those plants to survive and plants need not be eaten by animals to survive, so a co-evolutionary arms-race leads to ever more bizzare adaptations by plants to deter the animals and ever more ingenious adaptations by animals to get around the deterrents.One of the most efficient ways for a plant to deter a herbivore is to divert one of its existing biochemical pathways to synthetise a novel chemical – something that will give the plant bad taste, induce vomiting or even pain or may be toxic enough to kill the animal.

But there are other kinds of co-evolution between plants and herbivores. Some plants need to have a part eaten – usually the seed – so they can propagate themselves. So, they evolved fruits. The seeds are enveloped in meaty, juicy, tasty packages of pure energy. Those fruits often evolve a sweet smell that can be detected from a distance. And the fruits are often advertised with bright colors – red, orange, yellow, green or purple: “Here I am! Here I am! Please eat me!”

So, the hot peppers are a real evolutionary conundrum. On one hand, they are boldly colored and sweet-smelling fruits – obvious sign of advertising to herbivores. On the other hand, once bitten into, they are far too hot and spicy to be a pleasant experience to the animal. So, what gives?

Back in 1960s, Dan Johnson had an interesting proposal he dubbed “directed deterrence” which suggested that some plants may make choices as to exactly which herbivores to attract and which to deter. Hot peppers are prime candidates for such a phenomenon. What is hot in peppers is capsaicin, a chemical that elicits a sensation of pain when it bind the vanilloid receptors in the nerve endings (usually inside the mouth) of the trigeminal nerve. As it happens, all mammals have capsaicin receptors, but it was found, relatively recently, that birds do not.

To test that hypothesis, Josh Tewksbury used two variants of hot peppers – one very hot (Capsicum annuum) and the other with a mutation that made it not hot at all (Capsicum chacoense) – and offered both as meals to rodents (packrats and cactus mice) and to birds (curve-billed thrashers).

All species ate the sweet kind about equally. When Josh offered them identically prepared meals made out of the hot stuff, the two rodents refused to eat it while the birds happily munched on it.
hot%20peppers%20graph.JPG
The study appeared in 2001 in Nature (pdf) and I saw Josh give a talk about it at that time as he was joining our department to postdoc with Dr.Nick Haddad. While my lab-buddy Chris and I gave him a lot of grief in the Q&A session on his lenient criteria of what constitutes a “hungry animal” (he needed them to be hungry for the feeding tests), still the main conclusions of the study are OK.

More importantly, it really happens in nature. Mammals avoid hot peppers out in Arizona where Josh studied them (and made videos of their behavior), but the birds gorged on peppers. When he analyzed the droppings of rodents and birds fed peppers, he saw that seeds that passed through avian intestinal tracts were fully fertile, while seeds eaten by mammals were chewed, crushed, broken or semi-digested and not fertile at all.

Additionally, the thrashers tend to spend a lot of time on fruiting shrubs of different kinds. While there, they poop. The hot pepper seeds in the droppings germinate right there and this is an ideal shady spot for them to grow.

What a great example of (co)evolutionary adaptations. Next time on this blog, the second Big Question: Why do we like to eat hot peppers?

UPDATE: I’ve added this chart of Pepper “hotness” below, to help you gauge what to eat and what not to eat (or spray). – Anthony

pepper-ratings
Source: Calbob.com and Wikipedia’s Scoville Scale

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117 thoughts on “A Curiosity: Hot Peppers – Why Are They Hot?

  1. Ironic, isn’t it, that the pepper’s “defence” against being eaten by man has turned into an advantage. We now cultivate these plants in far greater numbers than they would appear in the wild.

  2. Why do we like to eat hot peppers?

    Years ago a pack of us macho 16,17 y/o boys were sitting around a table when one announced he could swallow a spoon full of tobasco sauce….he bellowed roughly the same question.

  3. That’s just silly! Everyone agrees that it’s the CO2 in the peppers that makes them hot.

  4. I don’t know about Arizona rodents not eating hot chillies however,

    My wife is from North Sumatera Indonesia. The western, northern parts of Sumatera plus Aceh are renown for having very hot (chillli hot) food.

    My wife tried to grow some very hot chillies in our garden in Melbourne Australia. The local possums not only ate the extremely hot chilli fruit off the bush but also consumed the leaves, stems and the bush structure down to ground level.

  5. Anthony,
    How funny you should post this. I made a fish stew for dinner that required one finely diced, red hot pepper. I wasn’t sure whether the pepper would be too hot, so I made my son taste it. He barely touched it to his mouth, then ran around the kitchen yelling, followed by massive water drinking (which doesn’t wash away the capsaicin, by the way). Nonetheless, diluted in the stew, the pepper added just the right touch.

    Cheers!

  6. Les Francis (16:46:20) :

    Perhaps with Australia being biologically isolated for so long, the marsupials do not have capsaicin receptors.

  7. The pepper in the pic with this article looks just like what a friend of mine grows. He calls it a “Medusa” and it is a tasty little number. As a poster above noted, not all mammals are deterred by the capsaicin (certainly man is not, well, THIS man is not). The reasons he gives for the existence of hot peppers is, of course, pure speculation, but it makes me want to go home and eat some right now. I think I will!

  8. I am very interested in hearing why we like to eat them, since I ask myself that question every time I eat them.

  9. On the other hand, once bitten into, they are far too hot and spicy to be a pleasant experience to the animal.

    which suggested that some plants may make choices as to exactly which herbivores to attract and which to deter.

    Birds and rodents be damned. Target a species that will transport you across the globe and plant your seedlings in every suitable habitat. A species that will kill your competitors and predators whilst feeding you all you can eat.

    Chilli – the only evidence of intelligent design.

  10. Peppers are one of the few things that I can manage to grow without killing outright. I have never seen any evidence that the birds take a fancy to them, even though I have to pick (the paltry few) tomatoes early ’cause the birds get them as soon as they turn fully red.

    We have a good crop (enough to make pizza spice for a few dozen units) of cayennes which are redder than tomatoes, before I pick ‘em, and don’t get eaten. One amazing crop is Aji Amarillo Picante (yellow hot peppers) from Peru. These things grow as big as carrots and have a strong, but quite different flavor compared to local peppers. The plants take two years to produce and haven’t had even one bird strike. My wife wants to plant the whole yard in them. As mower-in-chief, I say “Go for it!”

  11. The curious thing about hot peppers (with respect to Texas and Mexico certainly) is that the chillies get hotter the closer you approach the border.

    From either directions.

    (Clearly, the marsupials of Aus and Oz haven’t gotten across the Sumatran border yet ….)

  12. So, if I can make an OT analogy to tie climate change to hot peppers.

    The religion of Global Warming is like the hot Capsicum annuum. That is, it contains a high heat index (analogous to Scoville heat units [SHU] indicating a large amount capsaicin annum present) but in this case, it is hot air and greenhouse gasses.

    Those who imbibe on Global Warming are similar to curve-billed thrashers such as Hansen, the IPCC, politicians and the mainstream news media…who can eat the Al Gore climate change theory with no problems, depite the resulting poisonous poop output such as taxes and carbon offset that causes great harm to the economy and lifestyle of other human creatures.

    However, we, the AGW skeptics are like the packrats and cactus mice. Who may not be as showy as the curve-billed thrashers…who get all the attention with their headlines and sensational appearances…but we are wise not to eat the poison fruit.

  13. If you grow hot peppers, do NOT pick them bare handed and then pick your nose, dig sleepies out of your eyes, or scratch your privates. If you do, you will spend a very miserable 24 hours wishing you were dead. And it’s worse for women. Don’t ask me how I know this.

  14. The Joseph Cerniglia Woodchuck Draft Cider is a really good
    liquid to cut the hot pepper sensation. Give it a try if you are
    into food. The right combination of carbon dioxide, alcohol,
    tannic acid and water does the trick.

    A few years back I read a piece on the chemical composition
    of hot stuff. One tidbit was that the hot pepper is just one
    misplaced nitrogen molecule away from ginger. Probably the
    same evolutionary biology at work.

  15. Robert Austin (17:02:47) :

    Les Francis (16:46:20) :

    Perhaps with Australia being biologically isolated for so long, the marsupials do not have capsicum receptors.

    Not only no capsicum receptors, carnation , lily, camellia and many other flower variety as well (Although the draw the line at azaleas.) Chives, mints and many other herbs are fair game for them also.

    My wife is having none of this one or two chillies in her dishes either. A handful is a minimum. Some of our western friends eyes water just looking at the food let alone tasting it.

    The Indonesian way of easing a “Chilli attack” . Tomato slices, cucumber slices, Chrysanthemum tea.

    Here is a typical picture of some West Sumateran Food. Note the little side dishes of extra cut up chilli to add in.

  16. How apropos a subject as I sit down to eat my pizza, very liberally covered with crushed red pepper. For the uninitiated, you want a slice of my pizza, bring your own roll of paper towels to sop up the tears.

    REPLY: Must be a pizza called “The Red Menace” – Anthony

  17. I can see a reason why the pepper would evolve: the fruit needs an animal to pick it, to masticate it a bit, and then spit it out so that the fruit fertilizes the ground the seeds will germinate in. Being digested would cause too much damage to the seed capsule, but the ground the plant grows in is generally either undernourished, or otherwise lacking in nutrients needed to promote speedy germination.

  18. Robinson (16:38:28) :
    “Ironic, isn’t it, that the pepper’s “defence” against being eaten by man has turned into an advantage. We now cultivate these plants in far greater numbers than they would appear in the wild.”

    Any plant or creature that man loves and/or consumes will never have to worry about extinction. Can you imagine cows becoming extinct?

    Of course in the new crazy world we live in, I guess cows could be taxed into extinction… and maybe man too.

  19. Wyatts microbrewery in Albany, Oregon makes the best chilli beer. They serve it on tap. I wait till I know that the tap is getting to the bottom. For some reason, the beer is hotter when the tap is almost dry. While served cold, it will set your teeth on fire. I miss my chilli beer now that I have moved back to NE Oregon.

  20. The “antidote” for too much pepper-capsaicin… ice cream! Not only does it offer immediate relief from the feeling of heat, the calcium in the ice cream binds to the receptor that’s stimulated by the capsaicin and helps stop the pain reaction. Some restaurants that offer super spicy food have creamsicles on hand for folks that think they can handle the supa-hot stuff, but then end up realizing the error of their macho ways.

    Bruce

  21. Queen1: as you state, capsaicin doesn’t dissolve in water.

    However, it is slightly soluble in alcohol. Which is why good, hot mexican food goes so well with Tequila.

    Or, at least, that’s what I tell my wife…

  22. A brief synopsis of a pepper experience:
    My son, age 6 at the time.
    My garden, happy healthy veggies, including some Thai chilies.
    Blood curdling screams, “My eyes, my eyes”
    I quickly put 2 + 2 together and realized that he was in excruciating pain, but thankfully not in any real danger. (I learned the hard way with a Habenaro Pizza)

    A quick Google search came up with a suggestion of flooding the eyes with milk.

    So I am in the back yard, calmly talking to my son, telling him it is OK to scream, pinning him on the ground, holding his arms down with my knees, prying his eyes open and pouring a gallon jug of milk in his eyes.

    I was sure a neighbor would call the police! I don’t know if the milk helped, but time did, after a few hours he was fine, but the first 30 minutes he was in PAIN.

    It is kinda funny now, 4 years later, I tease him about it sometimes. It is almost as funny as when he took a small chunk out of his tongue when he licked the metal rack in the freezer. Good story, but a bit of topic, lol.

  23. As Peruvian, land of hot peppers of every taste and colour, and where we eat them profusely, I can answer the question of why do we eat them: Because they usually contain an alkaloid, RUTINE, which causes adiction as coffe´s caffein or chocolate´s theobromine (some youngsters will remember the movie “Time of wine and roses”?)

  24. I love hot, spicy stuff! My favorite is a habenero hot sauce called Sontava, made by a Texas company, Jardine’s.

    OTOH, my wife thinks Bell peppers are too spicy. I tell her if the spicy stuff doesn’t make your eyes water and your nose run, you’re not doing it right.

  25. As I undertand it we delight in hot chilli because it induces a pain that stimulates the body to release natural endorphins (painkillers) which induce a ‘high’ in the same way a long distance runner gets high. That’s why chilli is addictive, we get addicted to the high.

    BTW regards the possums. If you feed your possums stuff they like – like fresh apples etc they will leave your garden alone.

  26. Why do humans like hot peppers?

    A possible answer is humans have evolved to like peppers because eating them removes parasites from the gut.

    BTW, this is conventional wisdom in some cultures, but a quick google didn’t show any scientific studies to support the theory.

    Also if true. I would expect people descended from areas where peppers are native to be much more tolerant of hot peppers than others.

    However, this wouldn’t explain how a caucasian living in Texas or California would love hot chili.

  27. A dozen years ago I was planning to give my 4 year old son a lesson in spicy hot versus CO2 (I mean temperature) hot.

    The test object was a yellow hungarian wax pepper, and the plan was for him to touch it to his lips. This specific pepper was one which easily transferred to capsaicin by touch.

    The test didn’t work as planned and he decided to take a bite and he was not very happy.

  28. Les Johnson:

    “However, it is slightly soluble in alcohol. Which is why good, hot mexican food goes so well with Tequila.

    Or, at least, that’s what I tell my wife”

    LOL. One of my earliest “appreciations” of chemistry, sixth grade, was the discovery that water did nothing, only fat (milk, meat, especially meat juices) KILLS the horrible pain that I loved so well! :) (The chemical is Capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide, (CH3)2CHCH=CH(CH2)4CONHCH2C6H3-4-(OH)-3-(OCH3), courtesy Wicki) is fat soluble and varies moooocho with different peppers: Here’s the Scoville Scale: http://ushotstuff.com/Heat.Scale.htm

  29. I used to grow cayenne peppers. Late in the season I would let some dry on the bush. One day I discovered my cat eating one of the dried peppers off the bush. He ate the whole thing with a great deal of deliberation. From then on, he ate dried cayennes frequently. He liked watermelon, too. I got that on video. Other than some of his eating habits, he seemed like a pretty normal cat. I wonder how that would fit into the study.

  30. The right combination of carbon dioxide, alcohol,
    tannic acid and water does the trick.

    Put the still under the oak tree? OK.

  31. The true test of pepper “hotness” is not to be found on the Scoville rating. The Holy Grail of pepper hotness is to be found on the Relknie scale which measures not the degree of discomfort the pepper inflicts as it enters the digestive track, but rather gauges the discomfort inflicted as the product leaves said alimentary canal. The Relknie scale ranges from “1″ to “10″. It ain’t a “10″ unless a “911″ call and paramedics become involved.

  32. Recently that scale has been expanded to include the more sensitive areas on the female body. Basically, your 10 multiplied by my 10. You see, it equates to 10 to the power of 2. Logarithmic scale. Beyond birthing. Police are called. Fire trucks. Hazmat. Emergency crews dress in asbestos removal garb. They use tongs, the kind used in blacksmith shops. Double gloved and gas masked is mandatory. Neutralizing showers for all personnel and equipment if used to move the victim. The injury and mortality rate among said personnel is very high.

  33. I had always heard that in the past, peppers were used to cover the bad taste of meat that was just a little to old. I guess it makes sense that meat helps to put out the fire, then. Also, to hear that capsaicin retards food spoilage and appears to have a strong anti-biotic effect against certain inimical organisms seems to fit.
    I will not comment on how that might tie in to your comments Pam.

  34. Food should not be painful, coming or going. Of course humans do a lot of stupid things, why should eating things that cause severe discomfort be any different?

    I never understood the macho BS of having “hot sauce contests”. Must go along with other stupid human tricks of smoking and drinking.

  35. Interesting post. Also interesting to note that with (at least) four different nerve cells responding to specific levels of heat, only level 3 also responds to capsaicin:

    http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/P/Pain.html

    Easy to see the survival value for the plant here, but I’m not sure what advantage accrues to the mammal. Does co-evolution imply mutual advantage, or does any opportunistic adaption by one organism in response to another also count? As you can tell, I’m still at the basic terminology stage of my education here.

  36. I seem to have jumped the gun to question 2 – why do people like hot peppers?

    Anyway, I have a better theory as to why we like them, which I will save for the appropriate post, but it involves climate and predicts chili pepper sales will increase with global warming.

  37. The mockingbirds love chiltepins, and as a result, there are wild bushes of them everywhere in S. Texas. I watch the birds eat from the one outside my office window, where only the red ripe fruit is consumed.

    A story I like to recall from my early employment. A Hispanic bio-technician had a small garden just outside one of the lab buildings, where he grew various varieties of hot peppers. In a conversation with him, he stated his goal, he was working toward a pepper so hot that when it ripened, it went up in a blast of flame and a puff of smoke.

    As far as I know he never quite succeeded.

  38. Anything that produces a hot, sweaty sensation should be dealt with carefully…and often.

  39. Not that fully believe in intelligent design, nor do I believe fully in evolution… but that is the downfall of evolution. How can their “evolution” be explained? As a scientific I have a hard time with the idea that plants need to “adapt” or even worse, to “defend” themselves from this or that animal… PLANTS DON”T THINK!

  40. How do you know plants don’t “think”, bro? Can you prove that?

    After working with them for many years….they have SOME kind of “adaptive” force. Whether or not it is just a biological reaction…or maybe something a little more…either way…they are fascinating organisms.

  41. A friend brought us a party gift, a hanaero plant with peppers on it.

    After a few drinks, my wife asked if they were sweet or hot. I said with a straight face, “sweet” and she popped a whole on in her mouth.

    She still gets angry about that.

  42. The answer to the question “why do we like to eat hot peppers?” is the same as the answer to every question about human tastes: not all of us do.

    Why do we like one food rather than another, or one sport rather than another, or one smell rather than another, or one style of clothing rather than another, or the company of one gender in the bedroom rather than the other, or one style of painting rather than another, or one genre of novel rather than another … and so the list goes on. We are all different and have different tastes.

    I think the reason I enjoy very hot food is that it makes me sweat and clears out my flabby pores, the choice is a stonkingly hot curry or a trip to the gym. No contest really.

    Some years ago I first entertained a group of American friends at FatBigot Towers and it seemed a good idea to entertain them to a traditional English meal, curry, at an excellent local Indian restaurant. I ordered a range of dishes from very mild to “please have a fire extinguisher nearby”. Most of them had not had curry before and one was tempted by the green beans garnishing the surface of the Lamb Jalfrezi, so he scooped them up in his fork and wolfed down the lot. They were, of course, long thin green chillies. His wife spent the next day nursing him back to health.

  43. Before I moved to Texas [FROM VERMONT, for God's Sake] almost 30 years ago, one of my fraternity brothers from Houston made me a pot of chili (using CANNED Old El Paso Jalapenos) to get me acclimated.

    At the time I thought it was the hottest thing that a body could possibly eat.

    Now I realize that canned Jalapenos are literally kids’ stuff; I can’t eat an ordinary hamburger anymore without a nice thick layer of them.

    Many of my colleagues always carry a mini bottle of Tabasco with them everywhere, JUST IN CASE.

    The secret is the hot weather; 96 degrees F day in and day out (and sauna-like humidty to boot; we say “it’s great for the complexion!”) dulls the taste buds something fierce. Something muy picante is almost a necessity.

    Some Tunisian engineers of my acquaintance used to invite me over for dinner; their cuisine is like Italian-meets-the Fires-Of-Hell (not surprising, considering that historic Carthage north of Tunis is a short ferry ride from Syracusa Sicilia). I had their version of Chicken Cacciatore, and, while it was DELICIOUS, my entire GI tract (upper, lower, and “both distal ends”) wasn’t right for a week.

    Now for HOT, we got your habaneros or those scotch bonnet peppers. What Ms. Gray said about “sensitive tissues” is doubly true for those puppies.

    In fairness, it’s mostly what you’re used-to; almost anybody can be trained to enjoy a good helping of capiscum. The only consistent exceptions to this that I’ve seen are fair-skinned Englishmen.

    I had a pasty English boss about 25 years ago who would break out in a torrential sweat if a drop of Tabasco touched his lips. Naturally, we bought him a gallon of the stuff as a nice parting gift on his return to the Auld Sod. [Once I was with him in Dehradun, India, and he ordered a HAMBURGER for dinner so as to avoid the spicy Indian fare. I've never really recovered my respect for the English since then.]

  44. janama (19:08:59) :
    BTW regards the possums. If you feed your possums stuff they like – like fresh apples etc they will leave your garden alone.

    Sorry janama, if you feed then it only encourages them. I caught 14 living in a four gallon drum, in my garage. I took them to the bush and released them. In a matter of days another family had moved in. Give them more food and they breed like r…. possums.

    Adolfo Giurfa (18:35:59) :
    As Peruvian, land of hot peppers of every taste and colour, and where we eat them profusely,

    Adolfo, a South American friend of my wife gave her a variety of some chillies that were so hot they were inedible. If my wife cant eat a variety of chili then it is definitely inedible.

  45. PLANTS DON”T THINK!

    Of course they do. My geraniums have plotted against me for years, and I suspect they also talked the Johnny Jumpups into populating the grass rather than the flowerbeds.

  46. Adolfo Giurfa (18:35:59) : “As Peruvian…I can answer the question of why do we eat them: Because they usually contain an alkaloid, RUTINE, which causes addiction as coffe´s caffein or chocolate´s theobromine.”

    I think you’ve got it, Adolfo. Only something akin to chocolate could explain why people eat the treacherous things. A package of dried habaneras at the market was labeled ‘wear rubber gloves when handling.’ And I’m going to send something down my innards that I shouldn’t touch bare-handed? I don’t think so!

    Jorge

  47. Hot peppers are a curiosity all right. Seeds in general are even more curious. Some seeds aren’t even capable of germination until they’ve been crunched up by a cooperative animal!

    I’m not sure what Ray is getting at about “THINKING” being required for evolution. Evolution is a matter of whether a random variation happens to enhance the reproductive survival of an organism. If it does, then that organism’s descendants will likely gain that same variation and same reproductive advantage. It’s only in a tiny minority of situations that “thought” actually comes into the process, largely in the form of idiosyncrasies of mate selection leading to such things as baboons with red butts.

    As far as hot peppers go, I prefer to enhance flavor rather than replace it, so I tend toward the milder side of the scale. Unless my mother-in-law was the cook.

  48. How does the plant “know” which chemical produces which effect?

    It’s the plant that lives to tell about it.

    Plant and offspring inhabits an acre.

    Mammal type A comes along, eats all of it.

    Except one. That one had a slight mutation (smell/colour/texture) the mammal didn’t like.

    The mutant lives. Propagates. All seedlings now have the mutation. Acre is refilled.

    Mammal type A comes along. Passes by. Mammal type B comes along, though, and….

    Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

  49. Love chilies, am totally addicted to hot sauces of all kinds and dried/fresh chilies. They grow quite well on my property too (santa cruz, CA), which is about a 1/2 acre clearing in the middle of majestic redwoods, Oak and Acacia. The long growing season and Indian summers keeps me in fresh chilies even into December. Had very hot Thai chilies up the wazoo the first year I tried. Last year was the year of the cayenne (also very hot). Have had success with just about every variety I’ve tried except Habanero.

    Have never seen the birds go for them, but the deer around here love em. Even the hot ones. Totally serious, so not sure about the “birds only” theory. Any Chili or Tomato plant left outside of a barricade will be enthusiastically chomped by our deer neighbors.

  50. hareynolds (21:51:15) : wrote [snip]:

    “In fairness, it’s mostly what you’re used-to; almost anybody can be trained to enjoy a good helping of capiscum. The only consistent exceptions to this that I’ve seen are fair-skinned Englishmen.”

    “I had a pasty English boss about 25 years ago who would break out in a torrential sweat if a drop of Tabasco touched his lips. Naturally, we bought him a gallon of the stuff as a nice parting gift on his return to the Auld Sod. [Once I was with him in Dehradun, India, and he ordered a HAMBURGER for dinner so as to avoid the spicy Indian fare. I've never really recovered my respect for the English since then.]”

    Well, “hareynolds”, silly machismo aside, you obviously have never visited Britain and are basing your opinion on a single acquaintance. The Brits FAMOUSLY love Indian cuisine, much of which was globally pioneered in British Indian restaurants, and the average “fair-skinned Englishman” who goes out for a few pints on a Saturday, comes home with a Vindaloo (very, very HOT) takeaway. Save your prejudicial hot air next time, won’t you?

  51. Pamela Gray (17:26:10) :If you grow hot peppers, do NOT pick them bare handed and then pick your nose, dig sleepies out of your eyes, or scratch your privates. If you do, you will spend a very miserable 24 hours wishing you were dead. And it’s worse for women. Don’t ask me how I know this.

    Hey, how do you know this?

    mMrkL
    Canberra

  52. I cannot spell my own name, either…

    looks suspiciously at rum bottle

    Nope, can’t be that!

    MarkL
    Canberra

  53. I went to to an Ethiopian restaurant once where they served extremely hot food. My friend and I ate the stuffed chilli – which they explicitly told us was really very hot, honest guv. My friend spent the rest of the evening trying to recover.

    This is when I learnt that eating sugar stops the spice – the restaurant had pots of it on standby. Anyone have any idea how?

    (The chilli didn’t seem to hit me as hard, but I was completely hammered.)

  54. Ahh, hot chillies. Nothing better than when liberally sprinkled on a hot pepperoni pizza.

    The mouth numbing pain. Looking for relief with a guzzle of ice cold beer. And the bubbles accentuate the pain many times over. But you’ve been told cheese will relieve it. And there’s cheese on the pizza. The cycle continues until the pizza is gone – or the beer.

    As the good professor Julius would say – “Why is it so?”

  55. If you get hot pepper from your fingers in your eye – agony! – rub the eye with hair. Your own, if you have long locks, or someone else’s. It works – can anyone explain why? I was given this tip by a Mexican friend & pepper afficionado.

  56. I didn’t understand hot until I spent a month on Cozumel, shopping at the local food markets and discovered habaneros. While they are allegedly each the equivalent of a couple dozen jalapenos, I find them more tolerable. I like peppers for their heat and flavor, thus always removing the pulp and seeds as they have heat and no flavor. I find the habanero’s intense heat comes on quickly and just as quickly goes away, while jalapenos heat just sits in the mouth obscuring other flavors. My suspicion on why humans like them aside from the flavor and preservative qualities is the endorphins from stimulating the pain receptors, I find them intoxicating.

  57. “”which suggested that some plants may make choices as to exactly which herbivores to attract and which to deter.””

    blithering nonsense but it describes the problem of correctly describing evolution..
    claiming that plants make choices is like claiming elephants choose to get large to survive better
    when the correct description would be larger elephants survive longer and leave more descendants…
    plants that make vile chemicals get eaten less…the herbivore gets the choice…to eat or not

  58. Speaking of weird animal eating habits: When we’d prune our rose bushes, they had so many sharp thorns that we had to wear thick gloves. Then we’d feed the trimmings to our goats, who simply loved them. It made us wince in wonderment watching them eat those thorny trimmings.

  59. Just a friendly warning to everybody,

    Don’t cut jalepenos and then scratch your balls.

    Dill Weed

  60. “If you grow hot peppers, do NOT pick them bare handed’

    That goes for culinary activity as well. Some years ago, never mind how many exactly, a young short-order cook sliced some jalpeños and then went to to the facility for purposes of urination.

    Wash you hands *before* and after.

  61. I am sure this will get squashed by somenone from the medical field, but my theory to why we like hot peppers is the following…
    Upon cooking in an Indian Restuarant for a few years I witnessed many excited responses to hot food. I truly believe it is an adrenaline addiction. As your body experiences the pain of the hot pepper it responds with adrenaline and off you go. Give me more give me more….

  62. Now…why do jalapenos and peppers in general get hotter when they are under stress?
    Happy, well-watered peppers = mild peppers.

    As my dad said: “Never go to the bathroom after chopping hot peppers.”. We never asked why he said that.

  63. My wife tried to grow some very hot chillies in our garden in Melbourne Australia. The local possums not only ate the extremely hot chilli fruit off the bush but also consumed the leaves, stems and the bush structure down to ground level

    Maybe the local possums in Australia are to stupid to taste the capsaicin in the chilli peppers. I know a lot of guys that are just to dumb to know the sauce is hot. (

  64. Steven Horrobin:

    You may be right. I’ve only been going to Europe (including Britain) since 1969.

    Watched the first moon-landing on a B&W Telly in a French campground. Been to Aberdeen more times than I can count. (Scotland IS Britain, right?) Had a cuppa in Peterhead (pronounced Peeterheed) once just for fun. Drove on the wrong side of the road through the Lake District and got pissed in St. Bee. 20 years ago was accused of being a “religious fanatic” in a London Pub because I said “Oh, my God, tomorrow’s Easter!”. Been to Thanksgiving service for the Yanks at St. Paul’s. Supposedly, I’m the 9th generation descendant of Sir Joshua, first president of the Royal Academy, who painted the offical portrait of George III, argot-addled king who lost the American colonies.

    Been in at least 20 restaurants called “The Star of India” within the UK.

    PLUS been to the subcontinent over two dozen times. Including sunny Dhaka (!), Agra, Kalcut, Dilli (the hindi spelling), and Bombay. Used to go to Hyderabad every quarter before it was fashionable. OK it’s still not fashionable, but at least there’s some money being made there now.

    Once at a “cafe” in the Comilla Cantonment in Bangladesh (sandwiched between an army barracks and a British WWII cemetery on a sunny hill) I questioned the proprietor about the “stuff” floating in the water he had served: “Is this water from a tube-well?”. “it’s good enough for army officers, suh, it’s good enough for you.” I like India better, at least they call you Sahib.

    I think I know what I’m talking about.
    Suggest this: wait for Monsoon, pack-up your Wellies, and take a week or two in interior India. No fair eating in the tourist hotels; get out with the locals. Report back on any “delta” you might notice on the Scoville Scale between the real stuff and the anglicized version.
    Oh, and don’t drink unboiled water, including ice, or eat anyhting that might have been washed in unboiled water (e.g. salads). Shigella tends to be rampant in those parts.

    When you’re done with that bit, I got a taqueria in South Houston you need to try.

  65. On the other hand, many plants/fruits are tasty for the very reason that they want to be eaten for their reproduction via the spread of their seeds (bird droppings etc).

  66. hareynolds-

    Gosh, all that travelling and still making crass generalisations, eh? Well done, I suppose.

  67. This cannot be that new of a concept. I read many years ago that adding hot sauce to bird food will keep squirrels out of your bird feeder but will not deter the birds.

    Mike

  68. Mike Bryant (17:33:43) : Any plant or creature that man loves and/or consumes will never have to worry about extinction. Can you imagine cows becoming extinct?

    Would that this were true… but we are fickle with our love. And unfortunately there are fads in foods and farming, like everywhere else in life. When an animal or plant ‘goes out of style’ it often goes out of existence. While this is typically at the variety level, it isn’t always. There is a dedicated band of folks who try desperately to save the old varieties (especially in the face of mechanized monoculture practices and GMO seed monopolies ) but hugh numbers of varieties are still lost, and with them thousands of years of genetic selection for special traits. For example, there is one indian corn that has a tap root and grows well where their is very little water in the desert southwest.

    If you would like to help, or even if you just would like to try some peppers you’ve never heard of before, or remember from your youth, (or any other vegetable for that matter) these folks are a good place to start:

    http://www.seedsavers.org/

    The current varieties of peppers the central farm is offering are:

    http://www.seedsavers.org/Items.aspx?hierId=90

    It’s basically a peer-to-peer network of gardeners saving a lot of different seed types, with a central coordinating resource.

    BTW, dried seeds in a glass jar in the freezer will keep for years to decades. (There are some seeds, called ‘recalcitrant’, where this doesn’t work. These are often the most threatened with loss and many are fruit trees. See:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recalcitrant_seed )

    For an example of the risk a critter takes when it throws in with people, consider the draft horse. Very few remain (mostly on Amish farms and in beer commercials…) thanks to the tractor. Many varieties have been lost. Draft oxen are still around (largely in Asia) but dropping in numbers. Many unique native rice varieties are disappearing under the pressure from newer genetically modified varieties (that are often dependent on herbicides and pesticides that the older types did not need). And with them goes thousands of years of genetic selection for local land and pests. It’s a long list…

    Then there are the Dexter cows (and related). Small cows just the right size for a farm family. Not interesting to industrial milk producers and disappearing with the family farm that grows all their own food. Same thing with ‘mixed use’ animals of all sorts. You now find ever more wool or milk or meat sheep varieties, and ever fewer animals that are OK or pretty good at all of them. Centralized mechanized production wants one optimal product, not a package of pretty good products matched to a subsistence farm family needs.

    Or just consider the parsnip. At one time they were on just about every table in America (thus what used to be a common phrase “Kind words butter no parsnips!” meaning roughly “You talk sweet, but talk is cheap, show me what you really do.”) They are now reduced to one little square in the grocery store, hanging on due to a band of ardent parsnip lovers (like me!). The number of varieties has plummeted apace. BTW, just peel them like a carrot, cut in to pieces, and boil (with the lid off!) for about 15 minutes. Drain, add butter and salt. Yum! There is a slightly ‘piney’ flavor that leaves with the vapors, but stays if covered, that’s why the lid stays off during boiling…

    Or the dandelion. Once a staple of dandelion wine and herbal medicine, now attacked with herbicides everywhere. Sigh. No, they are not threatened with extinction, too hardy, but many other medicinals are threatened due to the move to modern medicine. ( I do have a packet of Italian dandelion seeds in my seed freezer. It seems folks in Italy still see them as salad fixings… and have selected better tasting varieties.) BTW, the bitter component is the medicinal part. It is being studied and been shown to really work. (i.e. tested in labs by PhD’s not just anecdotal stuff… See:
    here for example.)

    And finally, the mangle beet. Almost extinct. They were grown by the millions to feed to the cows and draft oxen on farms. A few survive (again mostly in Amish hands) as a way to store cattle food over the winter in harsh climates. It is said that the milk tastes better when the cow is fed beets (by my Dad and others from that line of the family). I don’t know, because we left the farm 80 years ago… before I was born… and the practice is dying along with the migration to mechanized monoculture.

    BTW, a ‘new law’ in the EU threatens private seed conservation by requiring government sanction for any seeds. Centralized power and authority stamping out choice, and with it varietal diversity. Same thing that is happening with energy choices…

  69. Steven Horrobin

    I think the favored Pommey phrase is “Flash Git”.
    Sorry for the “Pommey” bit, too much time spent with ANZAC citizens [I can actually spell Gallipoli, but only after a few stubbies].

    I was actually given a copy of the original “Flashman” novel as a wedding present by one of my mates. I’m quite proud of that.

  70. My point is, don’t give intent to plants. We can speculate on many things on how a chemical reaction changed due to external stimuli. Plants do have mechanical and chemical reactions to external stimuli but those are very limited and usually once the boundary is reached and passed, the plant dies.

    In the case of animals with brains, most of them will built or seak shelters and find food in order to survive. They use their brains and habilities they learned. They have a fighting chance to survive, even if slightly outside their limits. Of course for most species, the smartest survive. I am not quite sure anymore if this applies to humans because just like the elephant that goes over the cliff, humanity is being led over a cliff and most are following. Humans don’t adapt anymore, they adapt their environment.

    This is not the case for plants. If you can ever prove that plants have intent or awareness (or fool the people to think so), you will surely get a nobel price just like Gore did.

    But to come back to the peppers, maybe instead of saying the plant decided to be like that in order to survive, maybe we should look at the kind of environment they can grow in, the chemicals in the soil, where they have originated, the climate at the time, etc. That would be a start.

    I totally agree with Polazerus, we are adrenaline addicted. In a way, we like pain. Did you know that the same chemicals and brain activities when in pain are also identical to that when having an orgasm? Scans and chemical analysis have shown that. The difference is only how we interpret the situation. The funny things about capsaicin is that it is purely sensorial. There is no damage to any tissue, but we are in real pain when we eat hot peppers and we decode this pain as “good” because if we thought it was real pain, we would not touch the stuff.

  71. janama (19:08:59) : BTW regards the possums. If you feed your possums stuff they like – like fresh apples etc they will leave your garden alone.

    My garden used to be ravished by snails every year. ( I also used to be grumpy at The French for releasing the little buggers in California … until I found out that our native mollusk was the slug and that snails compete with them… I really don’t like slugs!) For decades I dumped toxic snail death all over my garden. It sorta worked. Once I ‘hand picked’ a gallon or two of snails from the crevasses of the fence and under things. Helped for about half a season.

    One year I finally gave up and stopped using any chemicals (other than the occasional fertilizers). Next year a ‘possum moved in under the garden shed. We shared the garden a bit. I like ‘possums. She had a family (the little ones are incredibly cute!)

    Two things happened.

    1) ‘possums just love snails. I have not seen a snail since. My net garden production has gone up, not down. Especially leafy things that the snails used to just destroy.

    2) When my finicky cats decide that the cat food can was opened 2 hours ago so the food is not fit for them, rather than being grumpy about it, I set the plate out near the shed for the ‘possum (they are omnivores). Now it’s not “wasteful” it’s ‘possum food. Same thing with some of the stuff my family decides is not worth eating. The ‘leftover leftovers’ go to the ‘possum family. I’m happy because we are ‘no long wasting food’, my family is happy because I’m not nagging, the ‘possum is happy with a steady high energy diet, and I have no snail problem. Works for us… And as long as the feedings are sufficient, the garden is last on the menu… though they did take my cauliflowers (left the kale and collards. Guess they weren’t that hungry! )

    BTW, last time I saw a ‘possum in the yard, it was big! 2 x the size of a cat or maybe more. They do really well on ‘leftovers’. We’ve had about 4 litters I think, but it could be more. They like to live under sheds and decks where predators can’t get to them…

    So if you have a ‘possum problem, call it a feature and enjoy a snail free gardening experience.

    BTW, I’ve put up my ‘first cut’ at GIStemp STEP1. That’s the Python step. More will be added over time (this is just the overview, I’ll post the Python listings later). It’s technical and a bit dry (coding / programming types will like it I think) not for everyone. For anyone who’s interested, you can look at:

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/03/03/step1-overview-and-sizes/

  72. My grandfather (Papa) used to grow Chilitepin peppers along his driveway in red Alabama clay. He ate several of them raw with every meal (yes, breakfast too). I spent every summer trying to eat just one, and although I like very hot things, I just couldn’t finish even one until I was 24 years old. These little suckers skip the tongue and head straight for the back of the throat.

    Papa lived to be 92 and had a full head of hair. Maybe there’s something to eating really hot peppers! However, he was stone deaf in his later years. I claim it was from the peppers burning their way up his eustachian tubes.

  73. Jeff Alberts (20:31:57) : I never understood the macho BS of having “hot sauce contests”. Must go along with other stupid human tricks of smoking and drinking.

    One friends favorite saying is “All Scottish cuisine is based on a dare.”

    Don’t know where it comes from, but Haggis was involved at least once. (Strangely, I like haggis as long as you don’t remind me what’s in it.)

    I find yogurt works well to cut the heat, which is probably why it figures in so many Indian menus.

  74. What about duck billed platypuses? Are they a mammal sensitive to chilis or a bird that is resistant?

  75. From Iowahawk’s “It Takes a Proverb to Run a Village” …

    “Do not curse the crow who has stolen your chili; tomorrow his rectum will curse the dawn”

  76. Steven Horrobin (02:11:00) :

    Well, “hareynolds”, silly machismo aside, you obviously have never visited Britain and are basing your opinion on a single acquaintance. The Brits FAMOUSLY love Indian cuisine, much of which was globally pioneered in British Indian restaurants, and the average “fair-skinned Englishman” who goes out for a few pints on a Saturday, comes home with a Vindaloo (very, very HOT) takeaway. Save your prejudicial hot air next time, won’t you?

    Steven, he’s obviously never heard of Dave Lister ;)

  77. Here’s one for you — not all peppers from the same plant will have the same heat index. I’ve found this is especially true of jalapenos and poblanos, which can have a wide variance, from mild to toasty hot. Poblanos are lovely when lightly scorched on a grill, peeled and seeded, cut into strips, and added to fajitas.

    It isn’t just temperature and watering — the minerals in the soil can influence the heat of the peppers, too. Hot nights are key.

    After you string peppers to dry, THROW AWAY THE NEEDLE, do not return it to your sewing basket…

    The fleshy hot peppers, Jalapenos and Hungarian yellows, are quite good done up as mustard pickles. Throw in a few carrot sticks for color. My daughter ate pints of the things when she was a toddler.

    For damping heat, banana works well, but I prefer a nice cucumber raita.

    In all my years as a farmer, I never had trouble with birds swiping peppers. I’ve never seen a thrasher eat anything that wasn’t already on the ground — they thresh the leaf litter on the ground, mainly for bugs. California Thrashers are interesting birds. I did lose a jalapeno crop to large, pale green worms back in 1977, possibly a lost colony of tomato worms.

    E.M.Smith — Mangels have a superior yield per acre, though I’d rather eat a chioggia.

  78. FatBigot (21:35:12) : Most of them had not had curry before and one was tempted by the green beans garnishing the surface of the Lamb Jalfrezi, so he scooped them up in his fork and wolfed down the lot. They were, of course, long thin green chillies.

    OK, my chili mistakes stories:

    Had the ‘green beans’ one. As a newbie, went into a local Thai restaurant. Ordered something random. There was a bowl of coconut soup or some such with some ‘green beans’ floating in it. Slurp, chew, swallow, pause Oh My God! Was then informed by “friend” that the chillies were for seasoning, not for outright eating…

    Another time my Chinese buddy was introducing me to some good Chinese food (rather than the gringo stuff I’d order from the tourists menu). He liked it spicy. We go in, he orders what sounded to me like Gunpowder Chicken with some chinese words tacked on (that I later found out meant roughly “put on the really hot peppers reserved for folks from {particularly hot location of China}”.

    Dish comes. Lots of tiny little red things in it with chicken and vegetable bits. I dig in and shovel. Whoops. Very hot, but livable. (Immediate sweat runs down forehead). THEN he tells me that I’m not supposed to actually eat the little red things, they are cooked with the dish just to flavor the rest of it… What would I do without friends… But we both ate the rest of the dish peppers and all, though I didn’t taste much but peppers.

    hareynolds (21:51:15) : Now I realize that canned Jalapenos are literally kids’ stuff;

    I canned my own once. Very Very hot. Waited a year. Opened some. Nothing worth noticing. I suspect that you need to do something to protect them from breakdown in canning. Vinegar and low temps? But I can say for certain that straight canning plus time just kills the heat.

    The only consistent exceptions to this that I’ve seen are fair-skinned Englishmen.

    Sir! I resemble that remark! (Though in fairness, only part English, the rest is an odd mix of Viking, German, Irish and a smidge of French…)

    ANY peppers in a meal and I immediately begin to sweat from the top of my head down to my neck. Forehead, temples, you name it. But not one drop from any other part of me. No idea how or why.

    I had a pasty English boss about 25 years ago who would break out in a torrential sweat if a drop of Tabasco touched his lips.[...]I’ve never really recovered my respect for the English since then.

    Maybe this will help. A buddy and I decided to cook up our own chili recipe. We’d always used dry chili powder, so we decided to learn something about fresh. Not knowing anything the recipe we started from called for a couple of cups of Anaheim peppers (see chart at the top of this page). At the local grocer they had a long line of peppers, but no Anaheim, so we decided to just grab what looked nice. ( I think they were Serranos in retrospect ). So we’re making chili and I’m cutting them up (not knowing anything, left seeds in…). Tossed into pot of chili. Touched upper lip with tip of one finger and had excruciating pain… eyes watering. Washed, washed, milk, washed, washed…

    Time comes to taste the chili. WOW hot! Ate a cup or so. We then decided it was just too hot to eat. (but ate a bit more anyway).

    We took that gallon of chili and froze it in portions. For the next year or so we would add one cup of it to an entire pot of virgin chili instead of adding any peppers. Worked great! Nice and spicy! I don’t recommend it as a process, though.

    Now I don’t know how hot that is ( 1/16 th of 2 cups of serranos with seeds per gallon ) but it’s about how I like it… Pasty English complexion and all…

    Grew up with a Mexican kid as best friend. Ate at his house a lot. One time they had visitors over from Mexico who didn’t know me (nor speak English). They didn’t know I understood some fair Spanish… They were talking about how I was probably a wimp when it came to chili and should they trick me into eating some really hot sauce. Mama Celerina (as we all called her) made her own Chili Verde sauce from her own chilies. No idea what kind, but it was a brave person who put 1/4 teaspoon on a taco and lived.

    Well, these guys decide to “cowboy up” and put 1/2 teaspoon on their tacos and do the “yum good” act after a small bite. I eyeball them. Take the spoon. Oh So Slowly put on a level teaspoon and inspect it… THEN go back for a second spoon… Chowed down the whole taco. (Now I instantly broke out in my head-sweat, and was in some pain, but declined to let it show).

    Never saw a Mexican’s eyes get so wide at as that. They were astonished at this gringo eating them under the table on hot sauce… I sat back smug and waited for them to try it. Sanely, they didn’t! What they didn’t appreciate is that I had Mama Celerina’s chili sauce (in smaller doses!) on an every other day or so basis for a decade+ … I was instantly accepted by them and we had a good time from then on out.

  79. one of the few things i miss from when i was in texas was the pickled jalapeno’s. i shocked my ex father in law, he was so “macho” but he could only eat half, i ate 2. and wasnt phased at all;-).

    the best indian food is in rusholm manchester, leeds is good, bradford too but you cant beat the curry mile. I am british, and spicy food needs to be spicy, i always add a pinch of chilli powder to any of my dishes. i joked that my taste buds are dead thats why i can eat such spicy stuff

  80. e.m.Smith did you know that brocolli is a new species. only 100 years old. the white liquid in a dandelion (uk), can get rid of warts and verruca’s if you put it on the spot.

  81. Well I don’t think they are hot; maybe picante, but certainly not hot.

    I’m told there is some sort of international scale of pepper “hotness” going up to a number like 280 (units ?)

    Apparently nothing above about 30 is edible; at least not before losing your throat and tongue.

    But the pursuit of such spices led to the creation of an Empire, and the addition of anew word to the dictionary; “Posh”.
    It seems that when sailing out to India (tiger hunting old chap; and maybe some pig sticking), those ancient ships weren’t air conditioned, and if you were unfortunate to have a cabin on the south side of the ship; well it got pretty rancid inside there.
    So if you were among the genteel,a nd the cognoscenti at the same time; you booked your passage to India to avoid a cabin on the south side.

    So you booked your passage, “Port Out, Starboard Home”, or simply POSH.

    And there you have it; enjoy the tigers old chap; and don’t drink the water!

  82. Capsaicin is liposoluble, that means it is soluble in fat and is not soluble in water. This is why it is better to eat or drink something containing fat (like milk) to bring down the heat. Water does not do anything to remove the capsaicin from the receptors.

  83. Captain Obviousness (10:46:20) :

    What about duck billed platypuses? Are they a mammal sensitive to chilis or a bird that is resistant?</blockquote?
    I think you’ll find these fellows are more partial to crustaceans and other invertebrates, their sensitive ‘beak’ is no good for searching for chilli’s or other vegatables ( :-)

    Jeff Alberts (10:52:48) :
    Steven Horrobin (02:11:00) :

    Reminds me of the pre-Kumar’s going to an English Restaurant looking for the blandest food they have.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpStoROu0XE

  84. Basil (04:49:56) :
    If you get hot pepper from your fingers in your eye – agony! – rub the eye with hair. Your own, if you have long locks, or someone else’s. It works – can anyone explain why? I was given this tip by a Mexican friend & pepper afficionado.

    I would expect that the Capsaicin is absorbed into the oils on the hair.

    Just had the windows rattle, pause, rattle… maybe a small earthquake somewhere? I’m off to check the USGS…

  85. OT: Quakes. The last little shake doesn’t show up. Either not a quake or not enough time yet. But this map:

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsus/Maps/US10/32.42.-125.-115.php

    is not encouraging. Looks like the Hayward / Calaveras fault system is showing activity. I hope it’s not pre-shocks for The Big One. That system has a history of “letting go’ a few years offset from the San Andreas, and the San Andreas let go just a few years ago (partial) in the Loma Prieta quake…

    If the Hayward / Calaveras lets loose, it will be a mess. One of the faults runs right through Berkeley (splits the stadium, I think) and under or near many regional medical centers…

    I really really hope there is nothing to the angular momentum spin orbit coupling to quakes hypothesis… Sun going dim and quakes at the same time would not make my day…

  86. mercurior (11:43:09) :
    e.m.Smith did you know that brocolli is a new species. only 100 years old. the white liquid in a dandelion (uk), can get rid of warts and verruca’s if you put it on the spot.

    Knew about small warts, didn’t know it would work on the big deep ones.

    Didn’t know about brocolli .. did know that Brussels Sprouts were very “new”. The whole cruciferous lot, turnips, cabbages and kale family has really odd genetics.

    It’s been traced back to 3 parent stocks and depending on which of the three root species crossed with what you get various turnips, mustards, cabbages, etc… And that is why the rutabaga is not a turnip. It’s one of the strange hybrids. I used to have a nice chart of this but can’t find the link now. At any rate, you get double and redoubles of the genes in some of the crosses … and whole new “species” that are also sloppy with their genes.

    They have a rather cavalier attitude about sharing genes across “species” and that it why it’s incredibly pig ignorant to have created “round up ready” rape seed (canola):

    http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/regulation/pgs/tab3.htm

    http://www.gmo-safety.eu/en/safety_science/188.docu.html

    The cruciferous vegetables are healthy and have some anti-cancer properties:

    http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/foods/cruciferous/

    So eat your: broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, turnips, rutabaga, mustard, choy, Napa cabbage (really more a ‘turnip’ genetically! ), radishes, collards, brussels sprouts, etc. today

    (with peppers, please! It’s all for you health after all… gee, cancer prevention AND fungicide all in one! )

  87. As an aside, the trigeminal nerve does not supply taste sensation. Otherwise a good article

  88. Captain Obviousness (10:46:20) :

    What about duck billed platypuses? Are they a mammal sensitive to chilis or a bird that is resistant?

    They’re just a cruel joke by Australians on the rest of the world.

  89. Just had the windows rattle, pause, rattle… maybe a small earthquake somewhere? I’m off to check the USGS…

    Just a T-Rex walking by, not that the ground would shake as a result, except in Hollywood.

  90. Mary Hinge (12:17:23) :

    Reminds me of the pre-Kumar’s going to an English Restaurant looking for the blandest food they have. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpStoROu0XE

    If you’ve never watched Red Dwarf, and are a fan of British Humour (or even if you’re not), I highly recommend it. The main character, Dave Lister, has Vindaloo for breakfast. In one episode, they accidentally created a ravenous Mutton Vindaloo Beast…

  91. Horseradish. Love the stuff. When I was eight years old, I finally got up the nerve to beg for a spoonful of the stuff. My grandma said no. Several times. I kept begging (it smells so good). Finally my grandpa intervened. He was likely tired of me begging. So he ordered grandma, against her better judgment, to serve a spoonful of it to me, and I was to eat it right off the spoon. I did. After about 15 minutes of the stuff coming out my nose, I finally was able to talk again…and asked for more.

    I have been hooked on the stuff ever since.

  92. I used to add cayenne in rather large quantities to the winter mash for my hens, a cauldron of ice fishing leftovers, kitchen scraps, whole wheat and barley, and creek water simmered over a wood fire in the yard. The girls loved it and were the steady winter layers in our area.

    Had one unexpectedly super-hot jalapeno in a batch of mild ones back in 1984 and ended up with silver sulfadiazine cream on my fingertips for a week. I invested in much heavier gloves and goggles after that, and a respirator when I got the farm. The respirator helped with the early stage of salsa production but was essential when I grated horseradish!

    The new foam-lined RSVP onion goggles are pretty good.

    My husband gets hiccoughs when he eats hot peppers. I’m more likely to purr.

    Anybody know which peppers are used in making Chinese hot oil?

  93. A True Fable (well, it’s from Texas, so the part about being true is suspect):

    [These are notes from an inexperienced chili taster named Frank, who was visiting Texas from New Jersey for the Texas State Fair.]

    “Recently I was lucky enough to be the 10,000th attendee at the State Fair in Texas and was asked to fill in to be a judge at a chili cook-off.

    Apparently the original Judge #3 called in sick at the last moment, and I happened to be standing there when the call came in. Since I hadn’t eaten and I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that it would be a fun event and a true taste of Texas hospitality.

    They assured me that the chili wouldn’t be all that spicy, and besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted.

    Here are the scorecards from the event.”

    Chili # 1: Mike’s Maniac Mobster Monster Chili

    JUDGE ONE: A little too heavy on tomato. Amusing kick.

    JUDGE TWO: Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.

    FRANK: Holy shit, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway with it. Took me two beers to put the flames out. Hope that’s the worst one. These Texans are crazy.

    Chili # 2: Arthur’s Afterburner Chili

    JUDGE ONE: Smoky, with a hint of pork. Slight Jalapeno tang.

    JUDGE TWO: Exciting BBQ flavor needs more peppers to be taken seriously.

    FRANK: Keep this out of reach of children! I’m not sure what I am supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to walkie talkie in 3 extra beers when they saw the look on my face.

    Chili # 3: Fred’s Famous Burn Down the Barn Chili

    JUDGE ONE: Excellent firehouse chili! Great kick. Needs more beans.

    JUDGE TWO: A beanless chili, a bit salty, good use of red peppers.

    FRANK: Call the EPA, I’ve located a uranium spill. My nose feels like it has been snorting Draino. Everyone knows the routine by now. Barmaid pounded me on the back; now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I’m getting shit-faced.

    Chili # 4: Bubba’s Black Magic

    JUDGE ONE: Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.

    JUDGE TWO: Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a chili.

    FRANK: I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Sally, the bar maid, was standing behind me with fresh refills; that 300 pound woman is starting to look HOT, just like this nuclear-waste I’m eating.

    Chili # 5: Linda’s Legal Lip Remover

    JUDGE ONE: Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.

    JUDGE TWO: Chili using shredded beef; could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.

    FRANK: My ears are ringing, and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted and four people behind me burst into flames. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from a pitcher. It really pisses me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming.

    Chili # 6: Vera’s Very Vegetarian Variety

    JUDGE ONE: Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili.Good balance of spice and peppers.

    JUDGE TWO: The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, and garlic. Superb.

    FRANK: My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulphuric flames. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except Sally. I need to wipe my butt with a snow cone!

    Chili # 7: Susan’s Screaming Sensation Chili

    JUDGE ONE: A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.

    JUDGE TWO: Ho Hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. I should note that I am worried about Judge Number 3. He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably.

    FRANK: You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn’t feel a damn thing. I’ve lost the sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chill which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava-like shit to match my damn shirt. At least during the autopsy they’ll know what killed me. I’ve decided to stop breathing, it’s too painful. Screw it; I’m not getting any
    oxygen anyway. If I need air, I’ll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach.

    Chili # 8: Helen’s Mount Saint Chili

    JUDGE ONE: A perfect ending… this is a nice blend chili, safe for all, not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.

    JUDGE TWO: This final entry is a good, balanced chili, neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge Number 3 passed out, fell and pulled the chili pot on top of himself. Not sure if he’s going to make it. Poor Yankee.

    FRANK: (editor’s note: Judge #3 was unable to report)”

  94. Sylvia (18:11:40) I think the peppers in oil in oriental restaurants are called hantaka.
    Roger Sowell (18:58:35) Thanks, I haven’t laughed that hard i too long.

  95. Jeff Alberts (16:45:36) :
    Mary Hinge (12:17:23) :
    If you’ve never watched Red Dwarf, and are a fan of British Humour (or even if you’re not), I highly recommend it. The main character, Dave Lister, has Vindaloo for breakfast.

    I was a great fan of this programme, especially the first three series. I won’t forget the chutney and egg sandwich as a hangover cure…it really works!

  96. Pamela Gray (17:14:42) If you have horseradish growing, check out the flowers when they blossom, they have a wonderful scent, to me, as sweet as jasmine but distinctly different.

  97. @Roger: How could you! (do it again please?)

    Pamela Gray (17:14:42) : Horseradish. Love the stuff. [...] I did. After about 15 minutes of the stuff coming out my nose, I finally was able to talk again…and asked for more. I have been hooked on the stuff ever since.

    Sounds like me and it’s first cousin, wasabi… I make a thick paste of it with soy sauce at Japanese restaurants. If I can still breath after a bite of sushi, I didn’t get enough wasabi on it… Wasabia Japonica and Amoracia Rusticana are closely related and sometimes (often?) horseradish is substituted for the Wasabia Japonica. Horseradish has been shown to reduce platelet activity, so it’s good for helping avoid nasty clotting problems (stroke, heart attack).

    And I had left it off my list of cruciferous vegetables! It’s in that same most wonderful tribe.

    I took a couple of 4 inch “tops” left from grating a whole roots worth over some months or so, and planted them in one ‘garden square’ (4 feet on a a side). In about 2 to 3 years It was all horseradish. When in the garden, I’d just grab a leaf and munch it. Not as tart as the root, but aromatic and delightful. Then one day I got a bunch of free range bunnies…

    Bunnies love horseradish. It stood up to everything else with no ‘care’ at all. But you can’t thrive if every single leaf you put up gets eaten on sight.

    Since then I’ve put “dog run” portable metal fences around the squares. Maybe it’s time to replant one in horseradish… the store stuff is a bit more bland than the fresh 8-)

  98. More true stories of Texas chili [grin]

    Wick Fowler – a chili legend in Texas. From his website: “In 1967, Wick Fowler defended the honor of authentic Texas-style chili at the first championship chili cook-off in Terlingua, Texas, using the same recipe that goes into his famous 2-Alarm (c) Chili Kit. This zesty, robust chili won the World Chili Championship, and it’s still a winner in homes throughout America.”

    Wick makes a strong chili, of very high potency, named 2-Alarm Chili. It was far too hot for many Yankees (no offense, my northern friends) and others not accustomed to what real chili can do.

    So, in keeping with his naming convention of the fire-house (one-alarm fire, two-alarm fire, etc), he made a chili for his Yankee friends.

    And named it False Alarm chili.

  99. Back in the late ’80′s I was working as a production supervisor, overseeing
    up to 10,000 meals per day from several kitchens and diverse locations.
    My first week there we reached enchiladas and I was made aware of the
    huge batch of “Accidental Insanity Enchilada Sauce” held on a full size pallet skid in a freezer I had not yet inventoried.
    As I was checking the ingredients for that day’s cafeteria production I was tasting and testing temps when I came across a five litre bag of sauce marked with a large red X. The story came out, with some sheepishness, of a rushed assembly of dry ingredients the day before the batch was originally made. Turns out that 500 grams of cayenne ended up in a recipe calling for 50 grams. Conversely, 500 grams of paprika became 50 grams.
    “They’re both red?”
    “You don’t want taste that. I got a special pair gloves with elbow length sleeves just for handling that stuff”.
    The ‘stuff’ was at least 10x hotter than the original batch was intended to be. And, it seemed that it was getting hotter as it aged in the freezer.
    The cook in charge was now diluting it at more than 12 to 1.
    My theory was that the oil used for sauteing the sauce veggies allowed the full amount of pepper power to be released and the sauce was continuing to evolve chemically at -40F.
    At one point I suggested we might thaw and puree the sauce and turn it into a condiment of some sort. Food safety ruled out that idea and we returned to using it as imaginatively as possible.
    Oil is the ticket for getting the heat into the mouth and it seems that oil tends to take away the pain when necessary.
    On top of the heat factor I get hit with hiccup spasms, especially if I happen to have an empty stomach. Hot and Sour soup typically arrives first at meal and is ladled out with some flair in most restaurants.
    There is something definitely comforting and bracing in well modulated pepper power.
    We cooks are the souls of alchemists.

    Raybann
    CosmosLaundry Journal

  100. E.M.Smith (13:03:47) :

    Once I ate with Japanese people and they told me that it was rude to mix the wasabi with the soya sauce. The Chinese usually do this.

  101. raybann (16:40:04) “My theory was that the oil used for sauteing the sauce veggies allowed the full amount of pepper power to be released and the sauce was continuing to evolve chemically at -40F.”
    I learned in an East Indian cooking class, we were making our own curry powder, that if you have to use store bought curry, scorch it in the pan you are cooking in, the heat releases the oils in the spices and makes them more available for flavor in the dish. I now do it with any dried spice, eg. basil & oregano for Italian dishes.

  102. Ray (22:31:22) :Once I ate with Japanese people and they told me that it was rude to mix the wasabi with the soya sauce. The Chinese usually do this.

    Yeah, I know. I still can’t stop myself 8-)

    You are supposed to pick the sushi up with your fingers, barely dip it fish side down in nearly plain soy sauce, then eat it. Yeah, right…

    It’s OK that way, especially made like they do in Japan with lots of wasabi under the fish; but the gringo way they serve it in some of the places in America just cries out for some ++juice++!

    I try to be more discrete about it when seated at the sushi bar (then again, at the sushi bar you can tell the chef you like it extra wasabi and they load it up under the fish, then you don’t need to ‘roll your own’ …

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