Sunday, December 19, 2004

Apple #13: Jalapeños


I made guacamole the other day, with fresh jalapeños. The juice got on my fingers and apparently because I didn't wash my hands right away, I had a very strong burning sensation on my fingers that lasted several hours.

By the way, to type ñ, hold down the Alt key and type 164, the let go of the Alt key.  To type Ñ, do the same thing but type 165.

The pepper:

  • Any pepper, whether it's a hot or sweet pepper, is considered mature when it's green. However, none have fully ripened at that stage. If allowed to, they all will turn other colors, like red or yellow or orange or purple or even chocolate-colored. When a pepper is fully ripe, it will also taste sweeter.
  • It takes about 70 days for peppers to mature.
  • If people who use tobacco touch pepper plants without washing their hands first, they may spread a disease called tobacco mosaic to the pepper plants.
  • In 1998, New Mexico alone produced 103,500 tons of hot peppers (jalapeño, cayenne and paprika). In 2000, this production increased to 121,500 tons, valued at $50 million.

The burn:

  • After handling hot peppers, if you start to feel a burning sensation, it's too late to wash it off with plain soap and water. Pour rubbing alcohol over the skin, "wash" your hands with it, then rinse. It may take several applications to get the pepper oil off. I had to do this about six or seven times, and even then, the burning sensation came back after a while. But it wasn't as severe.
  • The chemical that makes jalapeños hot is called capsaicin. It's mainly concentrated in the white membrane and in the seeds.
  • Capsaicin is also present in cayenne pepper and in curry powder. It is used in Tabasco sauce and ginger ale. It is also the "pepper" in pepper sprays used for personal protection.
  • Topical creams have been developed that use capsaicin to help relieve joint and muscle pain.
  • Some people who contract shingles develop a very painful form of neuralgia that makes even the touch of a bedsheet intolerable. They find some relief after several heavy applications of a cream loaded with capsaicin.
  • Eating capsaicin may help reduce the likelihood of blood clots, boost your body's levels of vitamin C, and speed up your body's metabolism. Folklore also has it that eating more capsaicin increases your tolerance to pain in general.
FAQ's about peppers
University of Illinois Extension's
Peppers page
USDA Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, "
Hot, Mild, Ornamental Pepper Industry Profile," March 2003

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