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Why Plant and Eat Hot Peppers?

Have you planted jalapenos, petins (penguin) or serrano peppers yet? You better! In Texas, it is unconstitutional not to!

Which of the 3 should you plant? Why should you plant? There actually have been some psychological studies done regarding the consumption of pepper. The results demonstrate that for the consumer, the heat from pepper represents a short emotional factor with no permanent damage. Pepper consumption can be compared to other daring activities such as parachuting out of a plane, riding a roller coaster or attending a horror movie. All these activities are risks that affect the emotional feeling of the participants.

Studies conclude that the heat of the pepper can cause a discharge of endorphin from the brain to the nervous system. This substance produces a sensation of well-being. As pepper-eating continues, the discharge increases and the immediate reaction of an irritating heat is replaced by the pleasures of consumption. Eventually, the pleasurable result on the psyche is stronger than the sensation of pain in the mouth!

The medicinal value of peppers has been recognized for hundreds of years. Recent tests confirm the validity of many of their uses that were described as medicinal in pre-Hispanic and colonial times. Much of this folklore has been documented in a recently published book, Capsicum Cultura--La Historia Del Chilli, by Janet Long-Solis. The following are some common ailments and some old- time pepper remedies found in her book.

The Cough: There are 3 remedies to cure the cough through the use of pepper. If it is a light cough, you eat a light pudding with yellow pepper and honey. If the cough persists, an infusion of teauaxin with pepper and salt is used. A third treatment consists of a tea from roots of tlacopopoth (Arundinella hispida), or lime-water mixed with pepper. This medicine can cure your cold or flu. Within the European medical theories, adopted by the Indian medicine, the hypocritical says all things of the universe have opposite characteristics such as, hot-cold and dry-humid. The cold was opposite to the hot and humid to dry. A healthy body maintains these contrasts in equilibrium, but when sick, there is a great load on the temperatures and when you recuperate, your equilibrium depends on the nourishment and medicine that contain the adverse qualities of those your illness provoked. The hot sauces, like pepper, are considered "hot". They were prescribed for sickness pertaining to "colds". It is frequently used for coughs due to colds, bronchitis, asthma, irritated throat and congestion. It is used in gargle form, balm or ointment made from the pepper and the leaves. It was known that infusions were good. It was a hot remedy!

Tongue Injuries: Apply a mixture of pepper cooked with salt on the injury of the tongue. In this case, it was probably used as an antiseptic.

The Teeth: You can take the toothache away by applying a hot pepper with salt to the affected tooth. If your gums are hurting, apply the same rule to reduce the infection. Recent studies have proven that heat from the pepper works against pain, since it affects the body at the brain. Also, pepper contains vitamins A & C which are essential to the good health of the gums and teeth.

In the past few years, it has been discovered that the Capsaicin from the pepper functions as an agent against pain. The chemical substance from the brain, named "P", is directly related to the transmission of pain. Scientists have found Capsaicin stimulates selectively, and will destroy the substance "P" in certain nerves that end in the skin and the mucous membranes. In this way, it works as an anti-sensibilitant. This phenomenon has been observed in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems where there is a relation in the effect provoked by the Capsaicin and the substance "P". The discovery of the effectiveness of applications of Capsaicin to the dental nerve in the tooth socket to reduce the substance "P" as a transmitter for the pain in the dental pulp, justifies the pre-Hispanic remedy to utilize hot pepper to treat the pain of a tooth.

Digestive Tract: One known function of the pepper is to incite your appetite, because of its ability to foment saliva secretion in your mouth. It played a physiological role in the nourishment of natives because it secretes the saliva that does not break through in your mouth when, every day of the year and of your life, you take the same meals— tortillas and beans. When your taste sensibility grows dull and weak, you need more pepper sauce so that your food will not taste like rags. Every day, the sauce will need more serrano to give your meal more taste.

The Mayans used the pepper to cure an illness where the symptoms begin as blood showing up in your urine and feces. It also works on your stomach-ache, and it provokes diarrhea. For stomach-ache, yellow tomato juice mixed with pepper is recommended. The Mexican people would treat colic with a suppository made of lime nitre, sap of liquidambar and pepper. With this remedy, you would probably get a pain more intense than the original. In this case, the cure is worse than the illness.

Constipation: This problem is treated with pepper and saltpeter in water.

Hemorrhoids: These are also treated with a remedy made with pepper. I'll bet they wished for the TAM Mild or the Rio Grande Gold!

Beauty Aids: Beside its medicinal qualities, the pepper has been used as a beauty product, too. To smooth your facial skin, it is recommended that you wash your face with warm urine and apply pepper (yellow chilcozth). In this case, the pepper may serve the same purpose as an astringent. Once you smooth your facial skin, you definitely want to be more attractive to the opposite sex. So, use another remedy that suggests women bathe in pepper water to increase their sexual attraction.

Aphrodisiac: It was advised that the male not over-use the pepper because it is prejudicial (hurtful) to their health, mainly because it provokes sensuality. It was famous for this when it was introduced in Europe in the 16th Century. In many countries, even now, it still relates to sexual desires hotter than a pepper! In the Arab nations, like many parts of the world, the pepper is thought to contribute to sensual qualities. In Samoa, the pepper is one of the ingredients of Kava, a love potion of virility.

Stimulant: The consumption of pepper stimulates perspiration so that it lowers the internal temperature of your body. As a home remedy, it is a stimulant for hair growth. There are some who will put them in their socks for better circulation and to keep feet warm in cold climates. I can imagine it now, chile petins between toes. Watch out Dr. Scholls - here we come!

In Malaysia pepper is used over the abdomen as a stimulant at the time of childbirth. After a birth, it is used internally to expel the afterbirth.

The Ear: Apply drops of pepper powder boiled with liquor to ease an ear-ache caused by the cold. This combination of liquor and pepper was an early sign of secrecy in colonial medicine.

Remedy for Too Much Partying: Picante sauce with garlic is exceptionally good for a hang-over. It is very popular to overcome the discomfort caused by a night on the town. I assume that this is the origin of using tomato juice as a hangover remedy.

Pepper Planting

Peppers succumb to a light frost and do poorly when temperatures are in the 40 to 60 degrees F range. The extreme summer heat in most areas of Texas is too high for fruit set to occur. Fruit that sets at temperatures above 80 degrees usually are small or poorly shaped. Very little fruit set occurs at temperatures above 90 degrees. Best yields occur when temperatures are between 65 and 80 degrees F during fruit setting.

Peppers, like most vegetables, respond well to banding phosphate 2 to 3 inches below the seed at planting. Peppers require high fertility rates and regular side dressing. As with tomatoes, heavy manure rates also increase yield.

Peppers can be attacked by several diseases that will reduce yields and increase production costs. The best control is a combination of practices that minimize the chances of diseases becoming established. Once diseases are prevalent, they are difficult, if not impossible, to control. During periods of high humidity, which includes most of the spring in Texas, apply a fungicide weekly. The best fungicide to use is one which contains chlorothalonil (Daconil, Multipurpose Fungicide or Fertilome Broad Spectrum Fungicide) or maneb.

In addition, bacterial diseases severely damage peppers by causing defoliation. Bacterial spot causes severe damage to sweet peppers but is not a serious problem of hot peppers. The bacterium is seed-borne. For control, spray regularly with a copper fungicide (Kocide) or an antibiotic such as streptomycin (Agri-Strep). These can be mixed with the fungicide spray and used on tomato plants also.

The major disease factor affecting pepper production in Texas has been the susceptibility of varieties to virus diseases. Virus infection causes leaves to curl, a mottled (leaves spotted with green) appearance and bloom drop. The plant is severely stunted and obviously nonproductive.

The virus is spread from one plant to another by foliage-feeding insects. Since complete annihilation of insect populations is impossible, controlling the spread of virus, and subsequently its damaging effects, is impossible unless the natural resistance in plants is used. There is no effective chemical control for virus infection once a plant is contaminated. The problem in developing a virus-resistant pepper is that there are several virus culprits, rather than just one, which can cause the damage.

Unfortunately, the jalapeno—the king of peppers popular with Mexican food—can be severely affected by virus. The serrano is also susceptible. To remedy this situation, the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station's virology breeding program, under the direction of Ben Villalon, has produced varieties resistant to at least 4 of the virus diseases which most commonly cause plant damage.

In addition to disease resistance, the jalapeno and serrano are much superior to standard varieties, and have been "cooled" down. These peppers are called Texas A&M (TAM) Mild Jalapeno and Hidalgo Serrano. The pepper fruit possess high levels of resistance to sunburn, have firm, thick walls and are ideal to use as Nacho-ring slices. Or, slice them in half vertically and fill them with cheese or other tasty fillings.

Most people mistakenly think that the pepper’s heat comes from the seeds. The tongue?twisting heat compound, capsaicin, is located primarily in the cross-wall portion of the fruit. Seeds that are "hot" were contaminated with capsaicin during processing. Processed peppers contain much higher capsaicin levels than do raw peppers. This may be attributed to the thermal processing which allows capsaicin to spread freely throughout the fruit. It is also believed that the processing oil (sesame, soybean, etc.) withdraws or releases capsaicin from the fruit into the pickled or "escabeche" juice. Most gardeners who have pickled home-grown jalapenos know that the finished product is hot enough that one pepper makes a pot of beans so hot they are inedible.

Major insect enemies of peppers in Texas are leaf miners, cutworms, aphids, spider mites, flea beetles, pepper weevils and fruitworms. Pepper weevils are especially devastating to jalapeno peppers since the first sign of damage is the pepper laying on the ground, i.e., when the weevil punctures the pepper, it falls from the plant. Take preventive action with weekly applications of an approved insecticide such as Cygon.

Maintain adequate soil moisture for optimum growth, since shedding of flowers and young fruit occurs during soil moisture-stress. Peppers recover slowly from anything that slows plant growth. Drip irrigation insures optimum yields because of the constant supply of moisture.

Normally, peppers are harvested when they are full size and before they turn red or yellow. Quality peppers are firm, have thick walls and a dark green color.

Although pepper culture is similar to tomato production, there are some very important differences. First, peppers do not transplant as easily as tomatoes do. Transplanted plants may survive, but if transplant shock occurs, plants may remain stunted and nonproductive for a long period. Because younger transplants are probably less root-bound, these smaller plants experience less transplant shock. Starter solutions high in phosphorus are a necessity.

Peppers are much more sensitive to cold soils than are tomatoes. Unless black plastic mulch is used to warm soils early in the season, and wind protection is available, peppers should be planted several weeks after tomatoes.

Never cover pepper stalks with soil because they will not form roots as do tomato stalks. For pepper transplants, cover only the root system and peat pot with soil. Instead of forming roots, pepper stalks covered with soil may instead rot because of soil fungus.

To learn more about growing peppers, see:

Pickled Jalapenos

If you are excited about all of this pepper information, here is the best pepper-pickling recipe I know.

Using fresh, TAM Mild Jalapeno peppers, blanch peppers for 3 minutes in boiling water. To prevent collapsing, puncture each pepper. Pack the blanched peppers into a pint jar, and before they cool, add the following ingredients:

1/2 medium-sized garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon onion flakes
1 bayleaf, small or large
1/8 teaspoon ground oregano
1/8 teaspoon thyme leaf (not seed)
1/8 teaspoon marojam
2 tablespoon vegetable oil (can also use olive, refined sesame or
corn oil)

Cover with a boiling brine solution made up of the following ingredients, mixed together:

2-1/2 pints vinegar (5%)
2-1/2 pints water
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons salt

Close the containers and process 10 minutes in boiling water, then let

Note: Jalapenos must be hot when brine solution is added. The addition of carrot slices adds color to the jars of pickled jalapenos.

Finally, if you want to learn how to use peppers to alleviate the pain of arthritis, as well as how to order seeds of the famous “Parsons Potent Chile Penguin” peppers, jump on the internet and go to:



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