Have you ever seen anyone eat a blazing hot pepper by mistake and witness the result? I have! Jamie casually popped a fiery chili into his mouth approximately 35 years ago, at the horror of the hostess who couldn’t stop him in time, and wow!! His face turned red and he was in visible discomfort for quite awhile. Capsaicin is the ingredient in hot peppers providing that fiery punch. Different varieties have varying degrees of intensity and they are measured by Scoville Heat Units. But the moral of the story isn’t to shy away from eating hot peppers! No, hot peppers are actually very good for you. Capsaicin is not only responsible for that intense heat, it’s also what makes hot peppers very medicinal and therapeutic. If there’s a moral to this story it’s that you should always ask before you eat from someone else’s kitchen or you may have an immediate karmic kick in your pants. AND only eat these hotties in moderation!
Look around the internet and you’ll find plenty of articles describing the wonderful benefits of capsaicin and how to safely include it into your diet. One of my favorite write ups is by Anthony William, where he describes the benefits of cayenne in particular, a pepper high on the Scoville Scale. He states that it:
- Boosts Circulation
- Regulates Blood Pressure
- Relieves Migraines, Joint & Muscle Pain
- Is Anti-Inflammatory
- Increases HCL and Improves Digestion & Assimilation
- Relieves Hemorrhoids and Heartburn
- Destroys Parasites and Worms
This spring Jamie got carried away and planted TWELVE cayenne pepper plants and because he has a very green thumb, they all produced abundantly! The first time he grew hot peppers was 5 years ago and at that point he also grew way too many of 3 different hot varieties. I thought he was crazy at the time, but I must say that I dried trayfuls of those gorgeous hot peppers that summer and have enjoyed adding them to soups and stews and sauces over the years. They honestly never lost their punch! I even ground them in our NutriBullet, using the milling blade, to make pepper flakes and they just recently ran out.
Jamie and I received a bare bones dehydrator many, many years ago from his parents – one of those Ronco infomercial specials (my Father-In-Law loved the shopping channel)! It was round, all plastic and didn’t have a temperature control, circulating fan or timer. It did the job, but not having a fan or thermostat or timer made it hard to dry things evenly. It required you to manually rotate trays every couple of hours. Sometimes things got over dry or even burnt. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that dehydrator and am so grateful that my in-laws got me started on dehydrating since it’s such a great way to put up some of our bounty each year. Over the years I’ve enjoyed drying beans (aka leather britches), fruit slices, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc. But this year we went high tech and finally invested in an Excalibur with all the improvements mentioned above plus stainless steel shelves. Life is good!
AIR DRYING PEPPERS
If you don’t have a dehydrator don’t worry, you can still easily air dry long, skinny hot pepper varieties. Just arrange them single layer on a screen or tray with holes; place two small nut bowls or something similar underneath the screen/tray so it is propped up in the air a bit giving the peppers air circulation. Another technique is to string them together and hang in a dry area for a few weeks. Think garland! Use a standard needle and thread and poke the needle through the green cap sideways. You’ll need to create a loop at each end to hang from. Whether you air dry or use a dehydrator, always store in a tightly sealed glass jar, such as standard canning jars when done. You’ll know they’re done when they are completely dry and leathery.
Capsicum is an irritant so I suggest always wearing gloves when handling hot peppers. If you do handle without gloves, wash your hands well with soap and lukewarm water. Do not touch your eyes, face, or any other sensitive areas. The seeds and juice/oils inside the pepper are the most potent. Take extra care around anyone who is sensitive to spicy foods, such as children. When drying them in a dehydrator, it’s a good idea to keep the room ventilated. Being fair skinned, I’m particularly sensitive to the hot pepper fumes and oils. So not only do I wear double layers of gloves, but I also wear a mask when cutting them up. I’ve learned the hard way over the years how potent these buggers are. I can remember one night when my hands burned terribly bad (without visible burns) and I couldn’t get them to stop burning even after trying all sorts of suggestions. The only thing that provided relief was to place them in cool water. That night I slept with a bowl of water on my chest and my hands submerged! The good news is they were fine the next morning.
So far this season I’ve dried 6 quarts of cayenne peppers, and there are enough in the garden to dry at least another 4 quarts or so. That should be enough to last us another five years! Jamie just reported that we have jalapenos and anaheim peppers now ready to pick also, so it looks like I’ll be doing another blog soon on making hot pickled peppers or relish 🙂