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Dave's Fiery Front Page

Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke


Android AppThere's an app for nearly everything these days, so here at the SuperSite, we were wondering: what would be the best Chile Pepper Application?  An identification guide?  A growing guide?  A pairing of beers, wines, and spicy food?  This is not a formal survey, but we'd love to hear your comments.  Just log in and comment on this post, or send us an email, here.

Defeat the Evil Cutworms!

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

CutwormCutworms should be called Paul Bunyan worms because when they arrive in your garden, the tender bedding plants resemble newly fallen trees. These are not worms, of course, but caterpillars of small gray moth. They're in the group called solitary surface cutworms because they cut off young plants at the soil line or slightly above or below it, sometimes dropping the severed plants into their burrows. Because most of the plant is not eaten, these cutworms do an amazing amount of damage, attacking and felling new plants nightly, like they did to two of my chile plants this week. Cutworm Collar

Master gardeners usually describe about a dozen ways to attack or prevent cutworms, but for a small garden the best method is called a cutworm collar. Buy plastic drink cups, or save yogurt containers, and simply cut out the bottom. Position the collars over the plants and push them about a inch below the surface of the soil. These physical barriers need to stay around the plants until (like peppers and tomatoes), the stems become somewhat thick and woody.

Update: Today, while replacing those chopped down plants, I found the cutworm, tossed it onto the gravel, and it was promptly eaten by a robin!


Capsaicin Keeps Rats Skinny

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: science , Capsaicin

RatKorean researchers fed five-week-old rats high-fat diets. Some got a daily oral injection of capsaicin, the fiery chemical in chile peppers, or just a control (the liquid that had been used to dilute the capsaicin). Throughout the course of the experiment, the rats getting capsaicin gained 8 percent less weight than untreated animals, and just a little more weight than rats eating a normal diet.

The capsaicin-treated rats also developed less body fat and accumulated smaller fat droplets within fat cells. The researchers noted “that capsaicin can have a significant inhibitory effect against fat accumulation.” But what's really significant in the research is the identification of which genes are selectively affected by consumption of dietary fat or by capsaicin.

They found, for instance, that a high fat diet up-regulated genes producing 17 proteins, including heat shock protein and preoxiredoxin. Some 10 of which were normalized or almost returned to normal in the animals treated with capsaicin. Some of the proteins altered by capsaicin treatment have been linked to obesity — or its prevention — before. Others appear to be newly identified players. A report of the new findings appears in the June 4, 2010 Journal of Proteome Research.

In total, the new findings suggest there may be dietary routes to slowing or even reversing obesity and related diseases through the use of pungent chemicals like capsaicin.


Bonnie PlantsBonnie Plants, with 62 greenhouse production facilities, 450 sales reps, and 13,000 retail accounts offering vegetable, herb, and flower plants, seems to be the largest bedding plant supplier in the country.  You see their plants in big box stores like Lowe's and Wal-Mart, but also in some local nurseries and supermarkets.  Today I spoke with Chuck at Agra Greenhouses in the South Valley of Albuquerque and asked him why his chile pepper bedding plants were one-fourth the cost of the Bonnie Plants at nearby Wal-Mart.  "It's their business model," he replied.  They grow bazillions of bedding plants and their commissioned sales rep/drivers deliver them on consignment to all the locations, and Bonnie only gets paid when the plants are scanned at the retailer.  The leftover, unsold plants are thrown in the trash.  Maybe they trash 80 percent of what they grow, Chuck explained, and this, of course is why their prices are so high.  But they are convenient and the plants have grown well in my garden and produced well. After many years of doing this, I've figured out the best ways to acquire bedding plants.  The following list describes the methods from cheapest to most expensive.
--buy seeds and grow your own.
--buy bedding plants from local nurseries supplied by local greenhouses.
--buy bedding plants from big box stores.
Of course, if you're looking exotic chile plants, price is no object and you should definitely consider Cross Country Nurseries and their wonderful 500-variety bedding plant mail-order program, here.



Focus on Pepper Pod Yield

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: gardening , chile peppers

Capsicum FlowersIf you have pepper plants growing in your garden, I assume that you're interested in maximizing the number of pods on each plant. Well, there are a number of factors involved in this process, including: fertilizing, weed control, flowering and pollination, fruiting, and avoiding reaching the fruit load.  Fortunately, we have a complete article on this subject, here.

Ghost Face Killah Beer

Why brew a beer so hot that it melts taste buds and brings tears to drinkers’ eyes? To do something different. In a world full of pilsners, pale ales and porters, thinking a little outside of the box keeps things exciting at Twisted Pine Brewery. “Ghost Face Killah” ghost chile beer packs the heat of six different chiles, including anaheim (New Mexican), fresno, jalapeño, serrano, habanero and the infamous ghost chile (Bhut Jolokia). The beer will be released at the Snowmass Chili and Beer Festival, June 4-5.

At a staggering 1,000,000 Scoville heat units, the ghost chile pepper is twice as hot as the nearest Red Savina pepper.  This has earned the Bhut Jolokia certification as the hottest chile pepper in the world by the Guiness World Records.

Based in Boulder, Colorado, Twisted Pine Brewing Company has been handcrafting beer since 1995. Read more about their other unique brews here.


Catbird Eating a MulberryMy favorite spring fruits are the mulberries, which are not available in stores because they are one of the few crops that are harvested in the "wild" by dedicated foragers like myself.  They are popular shade trees but have drawbacks. The fruits of the female trees stain purple everything they come in contact with, and the male trees release so much pollen that they trigger typical hay fever reactions. But try the recipes in the full article here and you will forgive them for a little discomfort. This is the most popular article on the SuperSite, with more than 37,000 page views!


Handy Instant Heat

Posted by: Dave DeWitt


Pepper Powder HolderDuring the trip to Italy, I met Rita Salvadori, a charming chilehead with a great idea.  She manufactures this handy leather pepper powder holder that she calls "Peperita Polveri Peperoncino."  It holds ten vials of pepper powder with heat levels ranging from 1 (Aji Pesce Frutta) to 11 (Naga Morich). The holder folds into a handsome leather case with a zipper that measures 3 x 2.5 x 1 inches, making it convenient for pocket or purse.  I used it to spice up meals both in Italy and London, especially scrambled eggs for breakfast.
Pepper Powder HolderUnfortunately, this item is not sold in the United States.  But you can visit Rita's site here, or visit with her on Facebook.  Someone here should license this idea from her—what a perfect gift for the chilehead in your life!


May is National Salsa Month!

Posted by: Lois Manno

Tagged in: fiery foods , chile peppers


SalsaMay ain't just for barbecue. It just so happens that it's also National Salsa Month. Many of these "official" food celebration months exist, and you can find exhaustive lists online, but some seem to be more authentic than others...the most "official" began as presidential proclamations or were created by Congress. More sketchy designations seem to have originated from well-timed press releases that somehow became popularly accepted. National Salsa Month appears on the USDA's website, so I guess that makes it official from a government point of view. According to The Teacher's Calendar, National Salsa Month was established to recognize salsa as America's Favorite Condiment. Picante Sauce was invented in 1947 by David Pace of Texas company Pace Foods. Cinco de Mayo, another important May holiday, is a perfect excuse to eat salsa...anybody's salsa! Here's our take on Making Traditional Salsas from Scratch.

May is National Barbecue Month!

Posted by: Lois Manno

Tagged in: grilling , fiery foods


HPBA’S NEW POLL REVEALS: Whether Dressing up or Stripping Down, Americans plan to Grill this Summer.

Forget the winter blues and taste summer! Nationwide, people are getting fired up for National Barbecue Month this May and the kick-off to the peak grilling season. Now is a great time to check out your cook-out equipment and make sure you are ready for summer grilling.

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association's 2010 National Barbecue Month (NBM) Poll reveals that six-out-of-ten Americans can’t wait to fire up the grill for the outdoor cooking season igniting this May. In fact, nearly 90 percent of people say they plan to enjoy grilled food in their own backyard this summer!

While grilling is a shared summer pastime, flavor preferences and grilling styles vary as widely as the people who use them. According to the NBM poll, 65 percent of Americans like to “dress it up” with a sauce, marinade or seasoning – and 21 percent prefer to “strip it down” and enjoy grilled food au natural.

Some like it hot! Men more than women say they like to turn up the heat with spicy sauce or steak sauce on their grilled meats (42 percent vs. 31 percent).

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