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Serious Heat: Taming the Chile Fire

Editor's note: On Thursdays, Andrea Lynn, associate editor of Chile Pepper magazine, drops by to drop some Serious Heat.


Photograph from TooFarNorth on Flickr

20090311chilediagram.jpgWhen the fiery power of a chile catches you by surprise, calming the scorching pain is a necessity. The key to extinguishing the fire is understanding the chile and its heat. Science experts David Joachim and Andrew Schloss explained this in a recent article we did in Chile Pepper. According to the duo, hot and sweet peppers are members of the same botanical family, Capsicum, but sweet peppers have a recessive gene that prevents them from producing capsaicin.

This spicy compound is produced by a chile pepper's placenta, the white internal membrane or "core" that holds the seeds. From there, capsaicin migrates into the seeds and along the inner walls of the pepper in lesser amounts. The outer, edible layer is the pericarp.

When consumed, capsaicin makes you feel warm, increases your metabolic rate, and stimulates blood flow and sweat. Curiously, only mammals are affected by capsaicin; birds are immune to it.

So what can you do to control the pain? At Chile Pepper, we're pretty much experts on this issue. While working on our March Hot Sauce issue, we tasted more than 350 hot sauces. Yesterday, we powered through 40 salsas--just another day in the office. Here's how we get through the scorch:

Take it from the experts. Don't forget to wash your hands after handling chiles or chile-infused products, otherwise you'll spread that burning sensation to other sensitive areas, such as your eyes. Ouch!

Printed from http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/03/serious-heat-taming-the-chile-fire.html

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