Fire in the hole


Habaneros don’t keep well, so stores are often out. When Market of Choice didn’t have any today, I asked the produce manager about something he did have that was labeled “red-hot cherry bombs.” He said they were hotter than habaneros and offered me a slice. It might as well have been a jalapeño. I then biked over to Plaza Latina but they too were out. The Hispanic produce lady assured me that she had something even hotter in the back. She brought a green, globe-shaped pepper for me to sample. I couldn’t understand what she called it, but I wasn’t about to let a dusky maiden from the land of fiery tamales think I was a wimpy gringo, so I ate it whole. Her eyes widened in anticipation of my screams, but again, I might as well have eaten a jalapeño. She disappeared into the back a second time and came out with what she called a Thai pepper. It was ominously small (like every hot pepper I’ve had), and I ate it whole too. Hotter than a habanero? Ounce for ounce, maybe. My stomach burned for two hours. Peppers eaten alone are in a different category than peppers eaten with other foods. I didn’t scream though.

I started eating habaneros a year ago because I read they were good for arthritis and for Raynaud’s (a circulatory problem affecting the extremities). The Oxford American defines them this way: “Habanero, a small chili pepper that is the hottest variety available.” At first, even a quarter inch section made my eyes water, my face turn red, and heat race across my scalp like flames through gasoline. But they grew on me. Now, I eat three with every meal and even take them to potlucks. I can’t say for sure that they helped the arthritis, but they’ve reduced the severity of the Raynaud’s by two-thirds.

I wash after I handle them but I still don’t dare put my hands near my face. I even hold myself gingerly when I pee, but I often end up with a fiery crotch anyway. Peggy burned herself just by drinking grape juice from my glass last night. The night before, she did it on a sweet potato that I peeled. A few days before that, a bite of my banana sent her running for the milk jug (milk neutralizes the capsaicin somewhat). Peggy is most decidedly not a fan of hot peppers.

Now, why would I enjoy something that hot? Well, like I said, habaneros don’t taste that hot to me anymore. Think of them as like coffee. If someone who never drinks caffeine has a cup of coffee, it will give him the jitters, but a heavy coffee drinker will scarcely notice the same amount. Peppers are also like coffee in that they have a psychoactive effect. I haven’t been able to find validation for this, but I can vouch for it from experience. Habaneros boosted my mood sufficiently that I even stopped taking Lexapro.

7 comments:

All Consuming said...

Well there's a few things I didn't know about hot peppers! I'm really pleased they've helped you so much, though you sound like Homer Simpson in the episode where , funnily enough, he goes to the chilly pepper eating competition. (He ends up halucination rather alot). The hottest food I can eat is the Chinese curry from the chippy, and that's really not hot at all. My Crohn's would go nuts if I started to eat them though, and I have to say, everytime I've ever tried in my life to eat hot things I've absolutely hated the experience. You make it all sound rather tasty though heheheh.

Pantheist Mom said...

I, too, am a fan of hot peppers (though come nowhere close to 3/day!!). I completely agree with the exposure/tolerance thing.

Here's something else I noticed about habaneros (and other peppers). I took to freezing them after a friend gave me many more than I could eat once. I SWEAR they were about 1/3 hotter after freezing than before. I speculated that freezing pulled water out of the pepper, leaving the capisum more concentrated. I've not been able to find any confirmation of that being true, but I'm pretty sure I didn't make it up. Those were some HOT habaneros.

I can't believe you eat 3/day. I feel like such a lightweight now.

Snowbrush said...

Con, I saw a man on TV who loved to eat and to grow hot peppers. He too developed a stomach problem that made it impossible to eat them, although he still grows them to give to friends.

Pan, I eat three per meal, not three per day, but it's not like taking pills where I feel that I have to eat that exact number, so I pass on the peppers if I'm having, for example, oatmeal for breakfast or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.

Yes, freezing them would make them hotter by taking some of the water out. I own a huge food dryer than I built to make beef jerky with back in my meat-eating days. I just pulled it down from the attic so I can start drying habaneros. I found one store that carried dried ones, but they were $40 per pound.

The Crater Lake Hermit said...

I have been eating hot peppers for years but recently I have had to avoid them. Not for any reason other than the problem I have with them leaving my body. I could probably stand the pain, but the screaming that accompanies it is just too much to bear. Does anyone know how to counteract that - other than to stop eating them?

whitesocks said...

I love hot peppers. Apparently, one reason people enjoy eating them (those who do) is because the body sees the burning as an 'injury' and so releases extra endorphins (the bodys natural healing system) to make you feel better :). Once I learned this, I enjoyed my hot peppers even more...

JOE TODD said...

Good for you.. I made some pretty spicey spaghetti sauce with all those tomatoes..Then I had to double up on my prilosec,nexium and mylanta,,I have read there are other medicinal values also...

Snowbrush said...

Hermit, I have no idea. Peppers burn my stomach sometimes, but they pass easily below that.

Socks, I know about the endorphins, but I assume that they represent a temporary high as opposed to a longer-term mood elevator.