How Much Heat Can You Take?

Bhut Jolokia chili pepper – one of the hottest in the world.

When we talked about hot chili peppers on Charlotte Talks last week, it got me thinking about how many people are like me; that is, really into spicy food. I know some folks who eat hot peppers as if they were rites of passage into some alternate universe of adulthood (I used to be like that but couldn’t keep up the true “chili heads”), and I also know some people who are so afraid of them that they won’t even eat sweet bell peppers “just in case they’re really hot ones in disguise.”  I think this is one of those areas where the world is divided into two kinds of people: those who eat hot peppers and those who don’t…

For instance, I think it would be safe to say, based on his reticence to dive into the sauces I brought to the show, that host Mike Collins falls into the “does not eat hot peppers” camp, whereas I, with my 30 bottle collection of weird and wonderful hot sauces, and my Earthbox garden in the back yard growing habaneros and 10 other varieties–well, I fall into “Definitely does eat hot peppers” camp. I’m not crazy–that is, I don’t go crazy testing my endurance against those super hot, 1,000,000 Scoville units “Ghost Jolokia” peppers (pictured above) we heard about on the show (well, I do have bottle, but it hardly every gets used except for when I go on the radio or have guests over who hubristically claim imperviousness to capsaicin pain).

But one of the things that I showed Mike, and I think it may have even nudged him a step closer to my side of the fence, is a great trick for fooling the palate. Eat a sprig of fresh mint before eating a hot pepper or hot pepper sauce and, for some strange, unknowable reason, it blunts the burn and you can actually taste the pepper itself, in all its sweetness and complexity. It may not be a very macho thing to do, but when you consider all the positive benefits of chili peppers, such as the increase of endorphin production in our brains, and the high percentage of vitamin C and other nutrients that they contain, why not grab any trick that allows you to eat them.

As for me, I’m not sure why I love hot spicy food, even from childhood, but   I definitely do love the taste. And, as I get older and find myself naturally cutting back on extreme foods, I expect I’ll be keeping more mint growing in a flower pot by my kitchen door just so that I can stay in the game.

Charlotte Talks  |  Chasing Chiles



Filed under Food, The Foodie's Garden

7 responses to “How Much Heat Can You Take?

  1. Peter, thanks for this interesting tip about mint and peppers. I’ve never tried it but I’m already imagining ways to combine them…in condiments…or even cocktails…

  2. Thank you for sharing this good tip about mint. I can not handle spicy food very well and I can not even enjoy some good kebab when I am in Turkey visiting my family. I will definitely keep growing mint, if it will help this!

  3. Dave

    Thanks for the info. What kinds of peppers do you have in your Earthbox? Is it too late to start one for 2011?

  4. Justine

    I think this was the show where you mentioned Melinda’s hot sauce – where do you find it?? I love it and used to find it everywhere but can’t find it now. The hot sauce lovers I’ve introduced it to really like it but yet the grocery stores seem to think everyone only likes Texas Pete or Cholula’s.

    • It’s probably too late now to start a new planting but I’ve got a variety of them growing in my Earthbox, including one of those “Ghost” peppers, all purchased from starts at the Matthews Farmers Market. There’s one farm there that specializes in hot peppers and hot sauces–located towards the back. Can’t recall where I got the Melinda’s sauce–may have been a gift– but there are mail order companies on-line where you can get pretty much any type of hot sauce. Also, try going straight to Melinda’s website. Peter

  5. Matthew

    For the past 3 years my church has held a chili cook-off. It will be held on October 30th. We are going to be having a chili pepper eating contest. I and trying to find out the best way to get my hands on a “Ghost” pepper. I want get a pepper in each range of the Scoville Heat Index Unit chart. Thanks for any leads you may be able to give me.

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