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TASTY GARDEN GOODNESS – Hot Pepper Lessons for Lovers of Heat By Candy Webb

Pepper is an indispensable staple in every kitchen. The black pepper plant’s dried and ground peppercorn is the world’s most traded spice. It plays an essential role in seasoning favorite dishes, as well as in traditional medicine. Yes, black pepper is a necessary everyday spice, but for real cooking, let’s take a look at the peppers that create the fire!

Members of the Capsicum family of peppers are some of the tastiest around. The average Bell, Banana, and Poblano peppers begin the family list, are mild, and are used mainly for their sweeter flavoring. They are high in vitamin content and are added to salads, soups, and stuffed pepper dishes. They aid in your body’s fight against cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Jalapeno, Serrano, and Cayenne begin the list of the heated varieties on the Scoville Scale – the go-to pepper pungency rating. Key to providing a spicier taste, they add the perfect finishing touches to salsas, pickles, jellies, and jams. These fruits also aid in weight loss, pain relief, and more.

A few of the winners for hottest peppers are Habanero, Ghost, Scotch Bonnet, Scorpion, Naga, and Viper. They top the list for heat-seekers who enjoy the thrill of eating scorching hot foods and are best used to create hot sauces, pepper oils, or crushed and ground pepper seasonings. Some advice is to enjoy the condiments, but don’t try popping these guys in your mouth for lunch. They can produce significant pain on the other end of the spectrum, if you know what I mean.

The hottest pepper on the Scoville Scale is the Carolina Reaper – just beneath police-grade pepper spray. When consumed whole, these peppers have sent their heat lovers to the hospital. You may want to avoid that practice. They are best prepared and enjoyed as a hot sauce to control the intensity of the heat. The Reapers contain so many vitamins and nutrients it is hard to list them all – so do eat the hot sauce, please; just a few drops will do.

One final note is that your best friend is a pair of gloves when preparing hot peppers. The oil on a pepper will burn your skin and eyes. Do not use water to counteract the burn. Remedies include milk since the acid in milk will dilute the oil in the pepper. Milk will even wash away the oil in your eyes. Other treatments include vegetable oils, baking soda, lemon or lime juice, and Aloe Vera.

Black pepper and peppers from the Capsicum family can be included in a good health regimen when used in moderation and with care. Spice it up this month and try a few new ones to perk up your taste buds. You’ll be glad you did!

Visit www.tasteofcandy.com for more Tasty Garden Goodness.