Valley Bounty: Chilies

The varying spiciness between different varieties of chili peppers is a factor of the amount of capsaicin present in the pepper. Contrary to what I always thought, the seeds inside the pepper actually contain no capsaicin themselves; the greatest concentration of it is in the membrane that connects the seeds to the inside flesh of the pepper. From an evolutionary perspective, spiciness is meant to discourage mammals from consuming the fruits—birds, who are better consumers from the plant’s point of view because their digestive tracts are much gentler on the ungerminated seeds, are immune to the effects of capsaicin.

Peppers range in spiciness, from the totally benign bell pepper to ominously named super-hot varieties like “Dragon’s Breath” and the “Infinity Chili”. Most farmers around here focus on comparatively mild varieties like Cubanelle, poblano, jalapeño, and serrano (in increasing order of spiciness), and some local farms like the Kitchen Garden in Sunderland delve into the hotter end of the spectrum with varieties like habanero and ghost peppers. If you’re at a farm stand or farmers’ market and are unsure which pepper is right for you, just ask the farmer to help you choose! I like to chop up a poblano into my scrambled eggs or add a diced jalapeño to some fresh salsa.

Valley Bounty is written by Brian Snell of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)