How Hot Is It?

By Carol Kagan

Hot pepper-V GardenNot the weather – that PEPPER! Although we usually get heat here, in Pennsylvania, and typically, plenty of it all at once, we speak here of chile peppers.

Your taste buds are craving salsa, so it’s time to check those peppers growing in the back garden. There are many varieties of “hot” peppers in various lively colors, but just how hot are they? We turn to the Scoville Scale for the answer.

Developed by chemist Wilbur Scoville, the scale is a way to measure and assign the hotness of peppers by measuring the capsaicin (cap-say-ah-sin) content. How do you measure a Scoville Heat Unit? To measure a pepper’s capsaicin concentration, a solution of the chile pepper’s extract is diluted in sugar water until the “heat” is no longer detectable to a panel of tasters. A rating of 0 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs) means that there is no detectable heat. The test’s reliance on human tasters, and the fact that plants grown in different conditions may be hotter or sweeter, makes the scale basically good for comparisons only. Regardless of the rating, use caution when handling or eating hot peppers.

So here goes, a listing of some of the most popular types are below. You can find the Scoville Scale on the Internet for a more complete listing.chart

Counter-Attack for the Burn

Capsaicin is an alkaline oil. Thus, water and alcohol don’t help alleviate the burn because they won’t dissolve the oil; they only spread it around. Acidic food or drink may help neutralize the oil. Try lemon, lime, or orange juice, cold lemonade, or tomato drinks (but not a Bloody Mary–see above).

Dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, sour cream, and ice cream are acidic and are considered helpful. Additionally, according to Paul Bosland, New Mexico State University Regents Professor and director of the Chile Pepper Institute, “It turns out that milk has a protein in it that replaces the capsaicin on the receptors on your tongue. It’s really the quickest way to alleviate the burning feeling.” Eating carbohydrate foods, such as bread or tortillas, may also help by absorbing some of the oil. Chew these but don’t swallow right away for the greatest benefit. (Did you know that most hot-chile-eating contests provide bowls of powdered milk and water to participants?)

For skin irritations (You mean, you weren’t careful?), wash off the oil with soap and warm water. Dry and repeat if needed. Remember, capsaicin is an oil and can be spread to other parts of the body by touching. Also, wash all utensils and cutting surfaces with soap and water after use to avoid spreading the oil.

chile peppers and glass of milk

For an upset stomach after eating hot peppers (yes, they make their way through eventually), try drinking milk–the more fat content the better–or eating carbohydrate foods such as bread and crackers. Sleep or rest in an upright or slightly inclined position to prevent heartburn and acid reflux.

Benefits of Capsaicin

Paradoxically, capsaicin’s knack for causing pain may make it helpful in alleviating pain. National Institute of Health research supports the topical use of capsaicin for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis by lowering sensitivity to pain. Look for over-the-counter creams and plasters containing capsaicin.

Research continues on many other possible benefits, including in cancer treatments, for anti-inflammatory use, weight loss, and lowering cholesterol. Another benefit of capsaicin is that the burning sensation causes actual pain, which releases endorphins. These are the pleasure chemicals also released during exercise. Perhaps eating hot peppers is a lazy person’s substitute for running and time at the gym!

Medicinal Disclaimer: It is the policy of The Herb Society of America, Inc. not to advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any particular medical or health treatment. Please consult a health care provider before pursuing any herbal treatments.

Photo Credits: 1) Chile pepper (Carol Kagan); List of peppers (Carol Kagan); Glass of milk with chiles (American Chemical Society).


Herb Sampler 2nd ed coverCarol Kagan is the author of the Herb Sampler, a basic guide about herbs and their wide variety of uses. She has been active in herbal organizations for over 40 years, designing and maintaining herb gardens and providing docent services at a variety of historic properties. She is a member of The Herb Society of America and the American Public Gardens Association. Carol is also a Penn State Extension Master Gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and is Co-Coordinator of their Herb Demonstration Garden.

Chilies: Chefs Like it Hot

By Joanna DeChellis, Restaurant Hospitality Magazine

 Chilies are hot. They were January 2016 Herb of the Month for the Herb Society of America and are 2016 Herb of the Year for the International Herb Association. Chefs around the country concur. Learn more about the trend in this excerpt posted Feb 4, 2016, by Restaurant Hospitality magazine. 


hotOnce reserved for thrill-seekers and chili-heads, fiery foods have officially gone mainstream. According to market research firm Datassential, chefs are hardwired to look for new and interesting ingredients to elevate their cuisine. “Chilies offer the perfect playground. There are many varieties with vastly different flavor profiles from all corners of the globe,” says Datassential’s Colleen McClellan.

Very specific ethnic peppers are being used in non-traditional ways, like as a garnish or an accent point, she says. “Peppers like the Calabrian chili, ghost pepper, and shishito peppers are seeing triple-digit growth over a four-year period. The habanero pepper has seen 90 percent growth in only the past year.”

In addition to peppers, chefs are also turning to hot sauces to spice up menus. Gochujang, for example, has experienced triple-digit growth since last year.

For a fiery dish to work, though, it must be balanced. Heat for the sake of heat is rarely a recipe for success. So, as chefs look at temperature-pushing possibilities, many are drawing inspiration from personal experiences.


Ashok Bajaj, restaurateur

Restaurant: The Bombay Club, Washington DC (Knightsbridge Restaurant Group)

Favorite Fiery Ingredient: Green Chili

Favorite Fiery Dishes: Chicken Tikka Hariyali; Lamb Vindaloo

Born in New Delhi, India, Ashok Bajaj, who has owned and operated award-winning restaurants in London and the United States for more than 25 years, doesn’t actually like very spicy foods. For him, it’s all about balance.

“Heat is subjective,” says Bajaj. “The way I experience spice is completely different from how you experience spice. I don’t like dishes that burn your palate the moment you eat them.

“Growing up, my mother liked spicy foods, but my father did not. I learned from her how to use chilies to enhance flavor. They add complexity and give a glow that can’t be replicated. As I began to experience other types of cuisine, I was able to see how other cultures use chilies and find ways to fuse the different styles to add flavor without fire.

“When we develop dishes at The Bombay Club and other restaurants through our group, we adjust the heat based on our guests’ preferences. If they want it hot, we’ll make it hot. If they don’t, we won’t.”

 

Edward Lee, culinary director

Restaurant: Succotash, National Harbor, MD

Favorite Fiery Ingredient: Gochujang

Favorite Fiery Dish: Dirty Fried Chicken with Spicy Gochujang Honey Glaze, Blue Cheese, and Pickles

Edward Lee focuses on spice when developing dishes more than any other taste profile at Succotash, which features a progressive perspective of classic Southern favorites.

“Almost any dish can be enhanced by spice,” says Lee. “You just have to be careful to add the right amount. My goal is never to melt someone’s lips off.  It’s to add complexity and enjoyment to a dish.

“One of my favorites is our Dirty Fried Chicken, which is inspired by buffalo chicken wings. The contrast of crunchy fried skin and a thick hot sauce always pleased me when I ate wings. But I always want the hot sauce to have more depth. So we take our house recipe fried chicken and dip it into our dirty gochujang sauce right before serving.

“The sauce starts with gochujang and butter, but we add a ton of other ingredients like soy sauce, ginger, yellow mustard and pickle juice. It’s isn’t just spice for the sake of heat. It’s nuanced and layered. It has a sweetness to it and umami—lots of umami.

“I ate spicy food all the time growing up but always in Korean dishes that were balanced with other flavors like acids and fermented fish. I’ve had a lifelong appreciation for spice not as a main ingredient but as part of a backbone to complement other flavors.

Read about the favorites of top chefs.


Posted with the permission of Restaurant Hospitality magazine

Color Matters: Eat the Rainbow

Pat CrockerTo be optimally healthy, we are meant to “Eat the Rainbow.” That includes black, blue, crimson, and purple herbs, fruits and vegetables. Learn how to color your diet and your garden from teacher, writer, photographer, and author Pat Crocker at The Power of Black, an HSA member-only webinar at 2 p.m. EST, February 17, 2016.

Click here to register for the HSA member-only webinar

In addition to talking nutrition, Pat will show how black plants — ranging from trees, to shrubs, to vegetables, to herbs and low-growing ground covers — can be incorporated into existing gardens. She’ll identify black varieties of interesting edibles that can be woven into gardens as ornamentals, medicinals and food.

“I plan to explore black herbs and food plants and offer information about how black plants work as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents in the body,” says Pat. “From this, we can understand why black plants, along with other colorful foods, are important.”

She will show how to apply that information with a seasonal “Little Black Salad.”

The Power of Black webinar points out herbs that are on trend. For example, it looks at black-leafed and black-fruiting, ornamental chile peppers as well as several purple/black basils.

blackOlivePepper“Black olive ornamental chile peppers are stunning when planted alone or with other herbs in containers for a deck or front walkway,” says Pat. “I’ll show how Rodale Gardens used blue savory and green cabbages as a path border. This way of re-thinking the herb and flowering garden gives you color, shape, texture, and different heights, and it is totally edible. How cool is that?”

Pat Crocker is a foodie and culinary herbalist. She has written 18 cookbooks including Kitchen Herbal, The Healing Herbs Cookbook, Preserving, and Coconut 24/7. With more than 1.25 million books in print (one translated into eight languages) she has been honored multiple times by various organizations, including the 2009 Gertrude H. Foster award from the Herb Society of America for Excellence in Herbal Literature. A professional Home Economist (BAA, B.Ed.), specializing in herbs and healthy foods, Pat has been growing, photographing, teaching, and writing about herbs, herb gardens, food, and healthy diets for more than two decades.


Non-members can join HSA and watch past and upcoming monthly webinars. The next presentation will be at 2 p.m. EST on March 7, 2016, will be on the History and Distilling of Herb Essences.

Herbs Influence 2016 Flavor Profiles

Introduction by Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America and Research by McCormick & Company

Sambal_Sauce_4_600I love lists. So I was fascinated by McCormick & Company’s 2016 Flavor Forecast. A quick review shows a trend continuing global flavors and heavy with chili peppers, January’s herb of the month for HSA.

“Since its inception in 2000, Flavor Forecast has been tracking the growing interest in heat and identifying upcoming spicy flavors including chipotle, peri-peri and harissa,” says Kevan Vetter, McCormick executive chef. “Our latest report shows the next wave of this trend is complemented by tang. Look for Southeast Asian sambal sauce powered by chilies, rice vinegar and garlic to take kitchens by storm.”

The company identified the following trends and is launching new products to satisfy consumers’ emerging tastes.

While I’m more likely to grow than buy my herbs, I find the list fascinating. And, as it will influence new recipes, my herb garden may reflect some of the company’s observations.

  1. Heat + Tang – Spicy finds a welcome contrast with tangy accents to elevate the eating experience.
    • Peruvian chilies like rocoto, ají amarillo and ají panca paired with lime
    • Sambal sauce made with chilies, rice vinegar and garlic
  2. Tropical Asian – The vibrant cuisine and distinctive flavors of Malaysia and the Philippines draw attention from adventurous palates seeking bold new tastes.
    • Pinoy BBQ, a popular Filipino street food, is flavored with soy sauce, lemon, garlic, sugar, pepper and banana ketchup
    • Rendang Curry, a Malaysian spice paste, delivers mild heat made from chilies, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, tamarind, coriander and turmeric
  3. Blends with Benefits – Flavorful herbs and spices add everyday versatility to McCormick chili chiagood-for-you ingredients.
    • Matcha’s slightly bitter notes are balanced by ginger and citrus
    • Chia seed becomes zesty when paired with citrus, chile and garlic
    • Turmeric blended with cocoa, cinnamon and nutmeg offers sweet possibilities
    • Flaxseed enhances savory dishes when combined with Mediterranean herbs
  4. Alternative “Pulse” Proteins – Packed with protein and nutrients, pulses are elevated when paired with delicious ingredients.
    • Pigeon peas, called Toor Dal when split, are traditionally paired with cumin and coconut
    • Cranberry beans, also called borlotti, are perfectly enhanced with sage and Albariño wine
    • Black beluga lentils are uniquely accented with peach and mustard
  5. Ancestral Flavors – Modern dishes reconnect with native ingredients to celebrate food that tastes real, pure and satisfying.
    • Ancient herbs like thyme, peppermint, parsley, lavender and rosemary are rediscovered
    • Amaranth, an ancient grain of the Aztecs, brings a nutty, earthy flavor
    • Mezcal is a smoky Mexican liquor made from the agave plant
  6. Culinary-Infused Sips – Three classic culinary techniques provide new tastes and inspiration in the creation of the latest libations.
    • Pickling combines tart with spice for zesty results
    • Roasting adds richness with a distinctive browned flavor
    • Brûléed ingredients provide depth with a caramelized sugar note

 

Hot Stuff: Chile Pepper, Herb of January and 2016

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, Herb Society of America

Jan2016_screensaver_1440The chile pepper is hot.

It’s January 2016 Herb of the Month for The Herb Society of America AND 2016 Herb of the Year for  the International Herb Association.

I’ve been herb gardening since 1990 and never would have considered the chile to be an herb. Piper Zettel, assistant to the curator of the National Herb Garden, says I’m mistaken. And, I’m OK with that.

“Chile peppers are considered an herb because they’re used to enrich human lives,” she says. “Herbs are plants used to enrich lives in ways that are not strictly edible or ornamental. Chile peppers are used medicinally and industrially.”

Thus, an herb.

“There are more than 30 species and probably a couple 100 different varieties,” she notes. “The National Herb Garden plans to grow 100 varieties to celebrate the herb.”

Chile peppers may be one of the most global of herbs. Consider their use across cultures – starting in South America thousands of years ago and traveling around the world during the last 500. Today, Americans are fascinated by the chile-pepper-spiked foods such as  hot wings, hot sauces, chili,  infused vodka, flavored cocktails.

I recently had a jalapeno-cucumber mojito. The heat of the pepper with the cool of the cucumber created a balance that was delish.

Food fascination aside, chile peppers are being studied for medicinal uses.

A February 2015 news article in The Scientist notes:

“Initially causing a burning hot sensation, the compound [capsaicin] is used as a topical pain medication because, when applied regularly, results in numbness to local tissue. Despite being widely used, researchers have previously not known how capsaicin exerts its pain-killing effects.”

While medicinal uses may be significant, some folks use them to torture themselves and, perhaps, unsuspecting exes.

Fear holding you back? Search “Hot Pepper” on YouTube to watch capsaicin masochists in action..  Apparently, you’ll find popular videos reaching millions of viewers. One chilehead has gathered more than 34 million – yes, million — views.

While the hottest pepper of  2016 hasn’t yet been determined, the hottest pepper in 2015 was the Carolina Reaper, checking in at more than 2.2 million Scoville units.

For the initiated, the Scoville scale measures ‘hotness’ of a chile pepper or anything made from chile peppers. Developed in 1912, it’s named after founder William Scoville.

Pure capsaicin – which determines the hotness of peppers – is 15 to 16 MILLION Scoville units. No pepper has gotten even close. And, that may be a good thing.

Several sources agree the 10 hottest peppers are

 1 Carolina Reaper 1,200,000 ~ 2,100,00
2 Moruga Scorpion 1,200,000 ~ 2,009,231
3 Choclate 7 Pot 1,169,000 ~ 1,850,000
4 Trinidad Scorpion 1,029,000 ~ 1,390,000
5 Naga Jolokia “Ghost Pepper” 1,020,000 ~ 1,578,000
6 Naga Gibralta 900,000 ~ 1,086,844
7 Naga Viper 800,000 ~ 1,382,118
8 Infinity 800,000 ~ 1,067,286
9 Dorset Naga 800,000 ~ 970,000
 10 Naga Morich 770,000 ~ 1,034,910

For the record, the jalapeno checks in between 2,500 and  8,000 Scoville units. That’s hot enough for me.


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