This is the time of year that confusing metaphors are rampant.
Folks have grills full of hot coals (which later become cold
coals). Summer is the month that hot chiles (most of which
are definitely NOT chilly) are available and used to spice
up your cuisine.
Chile peppers, capiscum annum. were discovered by Columbus
in the West Indies. There are dozens of varieties of peppers.
Most commonly used by chili lovers are the Anaheim--the standard
red pepper--and the jalapeno. Other varieties, such as the
ancho, the pequin and the serrano, also known as "green
bullets from hell," creep into recipes, too. How hot
and flavorful the final product is depends on the kinds of
chiles that are used, how long they are cooked and some complex
Chiles are hot because of the pungent chemical compound
called capsaicin pronounced: cap-say-I-sin. It's the vanillyl
amide of 8-methylnonenic acid. Capsaicin is a general irritant
that attacks any tissue it contacts. It is so powerful it
is used to make anti-dog and anti-mugger sprays.
Capsaicin is concentrated most strongly in the white placental
tissues to which the pepper seeds are attached. There are
100 parts of capsaicin in the placental tissue for every six
parts in the rest of the fruit tissue and for every four in
the seeds. That's how chili chefs can control the heat while
retaining the flavor of the pepper in their brew; by removing
the insides of the pepper before adding it to the pot. Flavor
is located in the outer wall of the pepper and is associated
with the carotenoid pigment. The stronger the color, the stronger
the flavor. That's why, as the red color of a dried pepper
fades, it also loses its flavor.
An inexact method for measuring the heat or pungency of
various chiles was invented by an English scientist, W.L.
Scoville, in 1912. It is an organoleptic test--meaning that
it uses human guinea pigs--to rate the peppers. Scoville Heat
Units for peppers are expressed as ranges because of variations
in growing conditions. Bell pepper and paprika rate a zero,
having no heat at all. Anaheims fall into the 800 -to- 1,200
range, as does store-bought chili powder. Jalapenos are in
the 25,000 - to - 30,000 range with the Texas A&M Mild
jalapeno clocking in with 3,000 - to - 5,000 range. The famous
serrano used in most Mexican dishes has a rating of from 7,000
- to - 25,000 with the Texas A&M Hidalgo serrano being
a bit milder at 6,000 - to - 17,000. Tabasco peppers are hotter
with a rating of 30,000 - to - 50,000 and the famous, hotter-than-Hades
chile pequin scores 70,000. If you think all of these are
tongue annihilators, some sadistic plant breeder has developed
a pepper called habanero which has a Scoville Heat Unit rating
of 200,000 - to - 300,000! Just saying the name of this pepper
makes your lips tingle! William Womack, a scientist with Quaker
Oats, maker of Wolf Brand Chili, says he once stupidly tasted
a drop of 1 million Scoville oleoresin. "After about
10 gallons of water it only burned like hell." he reports.
An ounce is enough to season 2,000 pounds of chili meat. Fortunately,
newer methods, using gas-liquid chromatography, have been
developed to eliminate the subjectiveness and hazards of human
There have been some psychological studies made in regards
to the consumption of pepper. The results demonstrate that
the hot from the pepper represents an emotional factor to
the consumer of little duration and no permanent damage. Pepper
consumption is compared to activities much like that of a
parachutist, roller coaster or attending a horror movie. All
these activities are risks restricted that affect the emotional
feeling of the participants. It has been concluded that the
heat of the pepper can cause a discharge of endorphin from
the brain to the nervous system of the consumer. These are
substances which produce a sensation of well being. In the
continuing use of pepper the discharge increases and the reaction
of irritation and ill-feeling is replaced by pleasurable results
of its consumption. Finally the pleasurable result is stronger
than the sensation of pain it causes.
The medicinal value of pepper has been recognized for hundreds
of years. Recent tests confirm the validity of many of the
uses that are given to the pepper as a medicine in the pre-Hispanic
time as well as the colonial.
The following are some common ailments and some old time
THE TEETH: You can take the toothache away, applying a hot
pepper with salt to the affected tooth. If your gums are hurting,
apply the same rule to reduce the infection. Recent studies
have proven the pepper works against pain, since it affects
the body at the brain. Also pepper contains vitamins A &
C essential to the good health of the gums and teeth.
DIGESTIVE TRACT: Known functions of the pepper is to incite
your appetite, because of its ability to foment saliva secretion
in the mouth. It plays a physiological role in the nourishment
of natives because it secretes the saliva that does not break
through in your mouth when, every day of the year and of your
life you take the same meals, tortillas and beans. When your
taste sensibility grows dull and weak you need more pepper
sauce so your food will not taste like rags. Every day the
sauce will need more serrano to give your meal more taste.
The Mayas utilized the pepper to cure an illness where the
symptoms started by showing blood in your urine and feces.
That also works on your stomach ache and it provokes diarrhea.
For stomach ache, yellow tomato juice mixed with pepper is
recommended. The Mexican people would treat a colic with a
suppository made of lime nitre, sap of liquidambar and pepper.
With that remedy you would probably get a pain more intense
than the original. The cure is worse than the illness.
CONSTIPATION: This problem is treated with pepper and saltpeter
HEMORRHOIDS: These are also treated with a remedy made with
pepper. I'll bet they wished for the TAM Mild or the Rio Grande
APHRODISIAC: It was advised that the male not over use the
pepper because it is prejudicial (hurtful) to their health,
mainly because it provokes sensuality. It was famous for that
when it was introduced in Europe in the 16th Century. Presently
in many countries, it is still related with sexual desires
hotter than a pepper! Like many parts of the world, in the
Arab nations, they attribute sensual qualities. In Samoa the
pepper is one of the ingredients of Kava, a love potion of
STIMULANT: The consumption stimulates perspiration so it
lowers the internal temperature of your body.
As a home remedy, it is a stimulant for hair growth. There
are some who will put them in their socks for better circulation
and to keep the feet warm in cold climates. I can imagine
it now, chile pequins between toes - watch out Dr. Scholls
- here we come.
But now for the best news of all! Researchers at Britain's
Oxford Polytechnic gave twelve volunteers identical 766-calorie
meals. On one day, 3 grams each of hot chili and mustard were
added (about average for a super-spicy meal); the next day,
no spices were added. Result: After eating the spicy meal,
the subjects burned off an average of 45 extra calories over
the next three hours. It seems that hot spices temporarily
speed up your metabolic rate. This means an obese person could
transform into anorexia with several pods of the not-even-funny-it-is-so-hot
The Parsons contribution to this pepper Hell is the ‘Parsons
Potent Chili Penguin’ in red and yellow--red-and-yellow
might kill a fellow!!! For more information, see: