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Superfood: 5 reasons why you should be growing the capsicum (pepper)

Written by , Posted in Food, Sustainability

Superfood: 5 reasons why you should be growing the capsicum (pepper)

Yes, that says pepper. That delicious morsel of food that has the potential to blow your socks off.

Isn’t it interesting the things that occur from a simple misunderstanding. In this case I’m not talking about survivalists, but the veggie … pardon, the fruit that comes in all colours of the rainbow. The capsicum, or pepper, can be large and small, sweet and hot. They’ve been around for thousands of years, spreading from the new world to India. They can be dried, pickled, and are one of the very few fruits/vegetables that can be frozen directly without blanching them. This translates into versatile garden bounty that’s sold as much or more as a spice than it is as a fresh product.

Though there are hundreds of varieties, they usually fall into two primary categories; the chili and the bell. The Bell pepper is the only genus that doesn’t produce capsaicin, the chemical that causes the chili’s to be so hot. The chili’s come in many varieties, ranging in heat from the Cubanelle to the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. Click here for a brief description of the measuring unit, the Scoville Unit and a list of chili’s and how hot they rate.
Peppers are a great addition to your garden adding spice and flavour, but if you’re on the fence, there are a few things we can learn from the peppers that might surprise and delight you.

1. Painkillers don’t have to come from pharmaceutical companies

Chili peppers have long been used to ward off evil spirits in many cultures. In India, the green chili coupled with lemons to ward of Alakshmi who represents misfortune. The pepper has been associated with Mars, the god of War and Central and South American cultures sprinkled them around the house to ward off Daemons and Vampires.

While you may not be able to leave the peppers lying around the house to keep the zombie horde at bay, there are a few things they are good for.

The Mayans rubbed hot peppers on their gums to stop toothaches. They did this because of the active element that causes the hotness of the pepper, capsaicin caused their gums to go numb from a greater pain. The capsaicinoids, chemicals which include capsaicin, and measured by the Scoville unit, can be harvested and concentrated to good effect. In fact, the effects are more than just making your gums go numb. There is a euphoric effect which releases endorphins. As such, many people use the peppers as aphrodisiacs. Additionally, capsaicinoids are used in nasal sprays like Sudafed and Robitussin and in muscle patches for arthritis pain.

If you are so inclined, another use of the compound Capsaicin is to have it concentrated and turned into a spray. Pepper spray has been a very effective deterrent for aggressors. Though it may not work on a zombie because they don’t feel pain or you know…. breathe, it may prove helpful in protecting yourself in a siege.

2. Size doesn’t matter even when you’re hot

Sorry gentlemen, the age old saying is true. In fact, the bigger you are, the less hot you get. In general, the smaller the pepper, the hotter it will be. All the world’s most potent peppers are under three inches long. The concentration of capcaicin is so high that the Scoville Unit goes through the roof; the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion is as hot as pepper spray.
You know you’ve seen the videos on the internet of people eating even tiny pits of ghost peppers. At first they seem fine, but slowly their faces go red and then suddenly the start running around screaming like idiots. In the end, they beg for something to cut the heat and open their mouths in hopes someone will pour something down their throat to attend to their needs before they fall to the floor in a puddle of flailing arms.

If you’re still compelled to eat one of these hot little numbers in one gulp, I offer one bit of advice; Don’t use water. Get milk. It does a body good. And the fat content will cut the oil of the pepper and consequently reduce the heat.
It isn’t just the heat however that comes in small packages. The plants themselves are prolific, producing peppers at a fantastic rate so they don’t take up a great amount of space in the garden.

3. Good things do come to those who wait

When it comes to peppers, the sweetest are fruit that are allowed to ripen fully on the plant in full sunshine. The same stands true for the hot chilies. The longer you leave them to ripen, the stronger the heat will be when you harvest them.
That means if you want to keep them after the season ends, wait until the absolute last moment to harvest. You can then dehydrate fresh chilies. As an aside, you can then tear them up to make flakes or grind them up to make your own chili powder.

4. Colour does matter when you’re sweet

When it comes to sweet bell peppers there is no species differential between the colours or the rainbow. In fact, red, orange, and yellow bell peppers are actually very ripe green bell pepper. If you see the above note, about waiting, the longer you leave the peppers on the vine, the more they sweeten.

As the peppers sweeten, the Vitamin C increases more than twofold. The level of carotene, like lycopene, is almost ten times higher in red peppers.

5. What’s on the inside is more important

Many people know that the pepper skin or rind isn’t the hottest part, but many also assume that it’s the seeds that are. In fact, it’s the white inner pulp that’s the source of the capcaicin and the heat. Furthermore, the pulp in the cavity of the bell pepper is a rich source of flavonoids and can be eaten. Peppers are a good source of anti-oxidants, potassium, vitamins A, B, C and E. In fact, the green chili has more vitamin C than citrus fruits; six oranges in fact. And don’t forget the fibre.

The pepper triggers a thermodynamic burn in the body which speeds up the metabolism. Thus eating the pepper and more importantly the pulp on the inside will help you burn calories .

Results have suggested that capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties.

Are you prepping your peppers? Maybe you like ’em hot? In any case, if you’re looking to make a better meal without shelling out a lot of cash for spice that’s flown in from across the world, the pepper is a great way to go. You don’t need to grow Ghost Peppers, but a few Pablano’s or Habenero’s can go a long way, first as a fresh pepper for a couple weeks and then as a dried pepper during the winter. In addition, if you have enough space inside the house, you can transplant your peppers to pots and gain from their bounty all year round. Can you say superfood?

Already have peppers in your garden? What kind? If not, why not?