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Dave's Fiery Front Page

Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> chile peppers

Rocoto Pods Needed!

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

 

Rocoto PodDoes anyone out there have any rocoto pods (C. pubescens) that they could send me?  I need them for a photo shoot for our new digital magazine, Burn!, but I didn't grow any this year.  If you have four or five that you could send, please email me here.


A study in the journal Cancer Research appears to link capsaicin, a component of chili peppers, to skin cancer. This is a misinterpretation of the data, according to SuperSite Publisher Dave DeWitt, international authority on chili peppers and author of more than forty books about peppers, including The Healing Powers of Peppers. The study was focused specifically on the topical application of capsaicin, not on chili peppers as food. To quote the study itself, “capsaicin alone does not act as a carcinogen.”

Toxic Chemicals Caused Tumors, Not Capsaicin

Researchers at The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, treated the skin of mice with a mixture of TPA and DMBA, two powerful and highly toxic tumor-producing chemicals. The mice were virtually guaranteed to develop skin cancer. Some were treated with a mixture of the chemicals plus capsaicin, and some were treated with capsaicin only.

While study results indicated that combining capsaicin with the chemicals “might promote cancer cell survival,” the report clearly stated that the control group of mice treated only with capsaicin “…did not induce any skin tumors…” In addition, the study repeatedly cited other research studies in which the anti-cancer properties of capsaicin were solidly demonstrated. A link to the full article can be found here.


Red Chile Sauce, photo by Wes NamanI never imagined that a single red chile enchilada could burn me out. After all, I've been eating New Mexican red chile enchiladas for 35 years, and although some red chile sauces are hotter than others, they usually run medium-hot at the hottest. But yesterday, Lois (the SuperSite editor and art director) and I had a business lunch at Abuelita's Restaurant at 6083 Isleta Boulevard in Albuquerque's South Valley, about three miles from my house. Fall was in the air, so I had a bowl of green chile stew plus a red chile enchilada a la carte. The stew was tasty and medium in heat. But it took me ten minutes to finish that single enchilada. It was just killer hot and I had to wait between bites for capsaicin dispersal. I called the server over and asked her if the chef had put habaneros in the red chile. Nope, she replied, it was just that last year's dried red chile crop they purchased was unusually hot. It was a perfect storm of the right combination of capsaicin genes colliding with some stress on those particular plants that produced an abnormally high amount of capsaicin. And I tried to wolf down that enchilada only to find that I had to treat it with extreme respect.


Chile TreeChile peppers are hot, and we love them for it! From mild bell peppers to the insanely hot Bhut Jolokia, peppers can have an incredible heat range. But have you ever wondered why our favorite chile peppers are so hot? Join an American ecologist, his weary team of graduate assistants and scientists, and a curious journalist as they trek through the jungles and deserts of Bolivia in search of the answer.

Read the article from the Smithsonian Magazine by clicking here!


 

Chile Pepper HeartGood news for chile lovers: A recent study has found that long-term consumption of chile peppers may help lower blood pressure. Capsaicin is the compound in chile peppers that gives them their spicy kick; along with its heat properties, the compound works to relax muscles, including blood vessels.  The new study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, is the first to examine long-term effects of capsaicin consumption in mice. Researchers found that long-term consumption increased the production of nitric oxide, which is known to protect blood vessels against inflammation and dysfunction. Many other health benefits are already attributed to chile peppers, such as reducing inflammation, headaches, and arthritis pain. Researchers of this most recent study concluded that further analysis should be done on humans to determine the full benefits of capsaicin. In the meantime, be sure to eat plenty of salsa!

Source:

Cell Metabolism: Activation of TRPV1 by Dietary Capsaicin Improves Endothelium-Dependent Vasorelaxation and Prevents Hypertension


 

Hatch ChilesIt’s that time of year here in New Mexico—the air will soon be ripe with the fragrant scent of roasting Hatch green chiles; mouths will water, and tongues will burn. The 2010 Hatch chile season was off to a rough start this year as the New Mexico harvest was delayed due to weather, but this week, chileheads across the country can start salivating as stores put up “Coming Soon” signs for the popular crop.

A message blares on the homepage of Hatch-Chile Express, “Praise God, the 2010 chile season has begun!” The company, along with other producers in the Hatch valley area, is gearing up to begin shipping Hatch chiles this week. The harvest is a quick affair, lasting several weeks from late July to early September. Known for their distinctive taste and quality, the chiles are grown in the Hatch valley in southern New Mexico. Widely held to be the crème-de-la-crème of the chile harvest, Hatch chiles are perfect for roasting and freezing for later. New Mexicans are known for buying 25-100 lb. bags to satisfy their taste buds throughout the year.

Roasting Hatch ChilesIf you’re located outside of New Mexico, you might have to wait a week or two for shipments to start appearing in local markets, but as many foodies know, the wait is worth it. Keep your eyes—and noses—peeled for this spicy favorite; they’re guaranteed to go fast!

Can’t get enough Hatch? Check out the Hatch Chile Festival this September!


Exploding HabaneroThe consumption of spices in the United States has exploded almost three times as fast as the population over the past several decades, data from the USDA reveals. Some of that spicy increase is due to the changing demographics of America—immigrant populations fom Mexico, the Far East, Southeast Asia and India. Immigration has resulted in more ethnic restaurants while food blogs and television cooking shows have inspired more home cooking using all kinds of chile peppers. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show big gains in Americans’ spice consumption since the 1970s, including 600 percent more chile pepper, 300 percent more cumin, and a whopping 1,600 percent more ginger.

McCormick, the world’s largest spice and seasoning company, produces more than one billionChipotle Chiles bottles of spices and seasonings annually in its Hunt Valley, MD, plant, nicknamed “Spiceville.” The company’s net sales in 2009 topped $3 billion. With the help of some 40,000 consumer testers, the company has decided that there’s a market for such spices. The company’s chipotle chile pepper has seen a 70 percent increase in sales since its launch five years ago. And sales of smoked paprika have jumped 300 percent since its launch three years ago.

McCormick is not the only spice company seeing growth. Penzeys Spices began as a mail-order business in 1986. It opened its first walk-in store in 1994 and now has 45 stores in 24 states, with plans to open five more this year.


Chile SeedsSeveral varieties of chile pepper seeds, including 'Wenk's Yellow Hots', 'Pico de Gallo', and the "unpredictably hot" 'San Juan Tsiles' have arrived at the so-called "doomsday vault" at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen near the town of Longyearbyen in the remote Arctic.  Svalbard has what scientists describe as the most diverse repository of crop seeds and is a safeguard against war, natural disasters, or diseases that could wipe out food crops.  More likely, it will be frequently accessed when genebanks lose samples due to mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, or funding cuts.  The seeds are stored in four-ply sealed envelopes, then placed into plastic tote containers on metal shelving racks. The storage rooms are kept at −18 degrees C. (-0.4 F).  The low temperature and limited access to oxygen will ensure low metabolic activity and delay seed aging.  The permafrost surrounding the facility will help maintain the low temperature of the seeds if the electricity supply should fail.

Diagram of Svalbard Global Seed Vault


 

Harvesting Chiles, Mesilla ValleyWeather factors have conspired to delay the green chile harvest in New Mexico, according to grower Shayne Franzoy, who farms 200 acres near Hatch.  "I think we're three weeks later this year," he said.  Stephanie Walker, cooperative extension vegetable specialist noted that unusually cool weather this spring caused "a very slow start" for chile fields.  "We won't hit full stride [in the harvest] until August 16," she said, noting that chile diseases have not been serious this year, including the dreaded curly top virus.  Harvested chile acreage averages between 11,000 and 15,000 acres in New Mexico.


Editor's Note: German chile expert Harald Zoschke comments on the Designation of Origin for the Habanero in Mexico.

 

Harald ZoschkeFirst, I'm not a legal expert nor a lawyer, so this is just personal opinion without any legal relevance.  It is strange that a generic variety name like "Habanero" was granted protection without a regional qualifier. Different story with the protected names over here. For example, there's a protected Piquillo pepper, but that one is named "Piquillo de Lodosa", after the town in the Navarra community where it is grown and protected for origin. But plain "Piquillo" can be grown anywhere and sold under this name. Another one is "Peperone di Senise," a protected pepper from the area around Senise in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. Even "Piment d'Espelette" has its origin in the name, and I heard of Calabrian efforts to protect "Peperoncini di Calabria." These three cases mean nothing but "Peppers from [region name here]." And "Champagne" or "Roquefort" also indicate their origin in the name, which as far as I understand is a vital qualifier to receive protection. You can name any bratwurst just that, but
"Nürnberger Bratwurst" has is protected and has to be made in the City of Nuremberg, Bavaria.
How much a plain "Habanero" would have to be respected here, I don't know. As pointed out, over here, only something like "Yucatán Habanero" would have received legal origin protection. Among other EU countries, Habaneros are grown in Holland for trade within the EU. I'd expect the Dutch growers to oppose. And what about Tropical Red Habanero from the Caribbean and the like? Also, speaking of the origin name, I think I read in one of your books that "Habanero" means "From Havana," so grant the name rights to Cuba, if at all.


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