Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wholesome Wednesdays: Capsicum!

Jalapenos, serranos, poblanos OH MY! I love me some hot peppers. My baby loves him some hot peppers. My parents ---- nope, they can't take the heat so i have to cook 'gringo style' when they're around. The rest of the time: my recipes are loaded up with garlic, onions, and of course HOT PEPPERS!

 Note: The curse of the cayenne continues! This is the plant i bought to replace my wilted cayenne. Notice anything un-cayenney about it? Everything! At least they're spicy - they ripen to orange and have good heat. Anyone have any idea what type of pepper this is?

Peppers (bell and hot) are part of the nighshade family that contains tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes and a few others. When gardening, try and rotate these crops biannually, not planting nightshades in the same place for 2 years. How i wish i could: my garden is quite small and although i can move planting locations by a few feet, i rarely get a good rotation. One day, one day........    I lost a lot of tomatoes and a habanero to some kind of wilt last year and my Rutgers succumbed to what i'm pretty sure is Fusarium Wilt this year. With careful watering (too wet promotes nasty bacteria and rot) and better drainage (planted in raised beds, pots, and near the edges of my large garden) most the plants seem to be faring alright.

One more gardening tip and a note on arthritis: if you like your peppers hot and mean, you need to be mean to them. You may see your plants withering in the hot afternoon sun - don't water! Let them suffer! If, however, they're still wilted and sad the next morning - take pity on them and water - a good DEEP water. Then hold off for a while. I water my peppers about once or twice a week - my whole garden except the cukes get the same treatment - but the peppers i'm especially mean to. If you expose the plants to some stress, you'll get hotter peppers. Peppers are also hungry beasts, so give them plenty of organic fertilizer, especially at bloom set -not too much nitrogen or you'll get pretty plants with no peppers, pick a fertilizer like Flower Power or Buds and Blooms to promote fruit set.

Nightshades and Arthritis: Many people who already suffer arthritis will find their aches made worse after eating members of the nightshade family. But don't resign yourself to a life without tomatoes and peppers! Their benefits, including delicious flavor, are too numerous. Instead, consider preparing your nightshades without their skins. This isn't quite as easy with tomatoes (though when cooking down simply place the whole or halved tomato in the pot and heat until the skin is easily removed, then blend for a sauce or puree) but peppers can be skinned quite easily. Simply roast the pepper and wipe off the skin. This can be done in an oven, directly on a gas stove burner, or outside on the grill. Turn the pepper occasionally to blacken all of the skin, place pepper in a paper bag until cooled then simply wipe the skin right off - easy as pie! and easy on the joints.

Finally - the nutritional content of peppers. I have long known that hot peppers are great for the metabolism, heart health, and wink wink - the libido. Here's what else they have in store for our health:

Read this great article on the many health benefits of hot peppers and the Capsaicin that makes them spicy. Here are some quotes i found most interesting:
Capsaicin, the hot pepper’s natural heat-causing component, has been proven to kill cancer cells, prevent sinus infections, serve as an anti-inflammatory agent, provide gastric relief and produce fat oxidation.
It retains the unique ability to provoke prostate cancer cell suicide, repress joint pain, block pro-inflammatory chain reactions in the blood and reduce nerve fiber swelling in the brain.
Look at all this vitamin C:

Sugar, shmugar. I had a hard time searching for 'hot peppers' in general, so this screen shot may not be totally accurate, and i'm sure not all peppers from serranos to habaneros are alike. But i say here yee here yee to hot peppers in every meal!

I ground up some jalapenos into a delicious sauce last night, as you can see we liked it a lot and there's not much left. I will be developing my own 'secret recipe' of this sauce so i apologize for no details. If you're local - check out Taco Deli's green sauce. It is delicious, but beware of heart burn. I hope to perfect my own variation over the course of the summer.

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Thank you so much for your feedback, especially if you've cooked one of my recipes or tried one of my tips: let me know how it turned out!