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Debunking some pepper bunk

By March 12, 20102010 Garden, Gardening

Wow… I get hundreds of comments and emails from my YouTube videos. Some of them are great, others, not so much. I thought I’d single out a few lines from one recent email who was trying to teach me a few things and try to address the common misconceptions that are quite wrong. (the anonymous email will be in italics with my responses to follow)

…a few facts:
1- the heat comes from the seeds, not the skin of the pepper.


This is just NOT true. There is definitely heat “on” the seeds, but it’s not where the heat “comes from.” The heat you taste when you eat a pepper is actually your body’s reaction to the compound capsaicin. Capsaicin is produced in the connective tissue between the seeds and the wall of the pepper, sometimes called the ribs or the placental tissue. If you’ve ever sliced open a hot pepper, you can actually SEE it… it shows up as a golden liquid on those white, fleshy ribs. This capsaicin is found in other parts of the pepper pod too, but it’s only produced in that connective tissue. Seeds have a high concentration of capsaicin because they’re directly connected to that tissue, but it’s NOT where the heat comes from.


3-the seeds NEAREST THE STEM inside the pepper are far hotter than those growing on the other end, which is why maximum heat comes from eating the whole pepper (all seeds, including those growing closest to the stem inside)

This is actually true, but again, not because of the seeds. The blossom-end of peppers contain little or no connective tissue. Slice open a jalapeno from the grocery store long-ways… you’ll see the white capsaicin producing tissue thicker at the stem-end and tapering down to nothing at the blossom-end… this is why the heat is more concentrated near the stem.

3- all peppers “vary” in hotness, depending upon growing conditions and how many seeds are in the pepper. a smaller or more mature pepper will be the hottest.

All peppers DO vary in hotness, of course, and yes, sometimes because of growing conditions… but how many seeds are in the pepper has absolutely nothing to do with its heat. Smaller, more mature… not necessarily either. The smaller species are generally hotter than larger peppers, but this is not a hard-and-fast rule. Also, if I have two jalapenos, one large and one small from the same plant, the small one is NOT necessarily going to be hotter.

6-MOST IMPORTANT…peppers arent nearly as hot when “dried”. commerical peppers are not very hot either since they are also dried in transport. so growing your own is the way to go. note that “WET” peppers are the hottest. to accomplish this you must pick your peppers when dew is on the ground…i.e. at night. you can simulate this (falsely) by putting the pepper in the freezer, taking it out, let condensation form and when the condensations starts to go away that means the seeds are soaking up the moisture….BUT the “real thing” is still picking them at night when there is dew or early in the morning (the plants puts water in the seeds via roots). note that your peppers can be up to 5 times hotter this way…..so “picking time” is really important to get hot peppers. picking them in the sunlight means they have mostly dried (by air) and stay that way (picking a pepper “freezes” it in development.). i mention this because i nticed that you picked the pepper in the day and it was a bit wrinkled. a “wet” pepper is plump and “juicy”….THAT is maximum heat.

This was the one that blew me away. Huh?? Wetter is hotter? I have NEVER heard of this before. It’s true that dried peppers will not be as hot as their fresh counterparts, but I don’t think condensation and seed re-absorption has a similar effect on the heat of a pepper… nor do I believe picking them at a certain time of day has any influence on their heat. Peppers produce capsaicin, this is why they’re hot, period. You can’t change the amount of capsaicin in a pepper, you might be able to change how soluble it is to a small degree, but I don’t feel any of these wives tales hold water.

What about you out there? Have any of you heard of pepper/heat related tricks?