Are the Chile Peppers Spicier This Year? August 28 2016
Chile peppers' spiciness comes from the chemical called capsaicin, which protects the seeds of the chile pepper fruit (yes, chile peppers are also a fruit, like our tomato friends last week).
How much capsaicin a chile pepper contains makes its spicier. But it's not just the type of chile (and thus its genetics) that determines how much of this chemical the plant has. The weather and growing conditions affect the amount as well. Drier drought like conditions and higher temperatures cause chile peppers to produce more capsaicin, and thus become spicier.
This summer (until recently) has been consistently crazy hot and dry...and we have the chile peppers to prove it. Bri, who has to get second opinions on spiciness because with her tolerance she just can't taste it at lower levels, ate a small piece of normally more mellow Hungarian wax peppers from Aspen Moon Farm. She went running for the milk! I've never seen that. We even have ghost pepper salt as a staff lunch condiment.
So we're being extra vigilant with the amazingly delicious peppers going into the Grassfed Beef Chili this week.
If your chiles are too hot, do what we do. Cut them in half and scoop out the seeds and membrane where the capsaicin is concentrated. You can always add seeds back if you want more kick.
PS - As backyard chicken lovers likely know, birds are immune to capsaicin, and thus to its spiciness. They'll swallow chiles whole and spread the seeds far and wide.
This info, illustration, and lots more in Harold McGee's book On Food and Cooking.