(click on the title to go
to the article)
Why are Peppers
Good for You?
Guide to Chile Peppers
Around Benefits of Eating Hot Foods
How to Roast a
Presses -- Gotta Be Chili
Solves Some Chile Puzzles
Hot Help for
Detoxifies Raw Oysters
By Melissa T. Stock and
While the thought of eating chile may
make your mouth water, the idea of chiles in your eyes
or nose is enough to make you cry--even though it can be
good for you. In the West Indies, for example, the
pressed juice of chiles is used to treat inflammatory
eye disorders, and the water of boiled chile leaves is
used as medication for asthma, cough, chest colds and
tuberculosis. Because it causes sweating, chile is
included in many folk remedies for alleviating fever,
and because it kills both germs and pain, a
capsaicin-based spray is used by some doctors to combat
sore throats. Currently in the United States and Europe,
doctors are studying capsaicin, the chemical that makes
chile hot, as a way to alleviate symptoms of the head,
nose, mouth and respiratory tract. One study at the
Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital in Chicago found that a
pinch of pepper in baby food helped stroke patients (who
are having difficulty swallowing) ingest their food more
One theory is that capsaicin is a
counter-irritant, an irritation to an irritation, that
stimulates the nerves it directly contacts. One theory
is that this stimulation depletes the nerves of
Substance P, an neuropeptide that transmits pain signals
to the brain, which then reduces pain and irritation in
the treated area. Capsaicin irritation also helps the
body work more efficiently by causing a protective
reaction, particularly in the digestive and respiratory
tracts, in which excess fluids are produced to flush out
an unwanted invader. In this article we will explore
some of the ways doctors and researchers are using
capsaicin to soothe your head and help you breathe
easier. Never before has it been so good to be so
MOM WAS RIGHT: EAT YOUR CHICKEN SOUP
Millions of dollars and thousands of
hours have been dedicated to finding a cure for the
common cold. And to most people, the sick sentence
remains the same: it takes about a week to get over a
cold if you just suffer through it, seven days if you
take over-the-counter medicine.
But don't despair! There's definitely
a pecking order when it comes to fighting respiratory
problems. According to much recent research, the
powerful poultry/pepper one-two punch may be just what
you need when battling bronchitis or combatting a cold.
Add in a little garlic, and you've got soup and a cure
fit for a king, a doctor, and a researcher or two.
Dr. Irwin Ziment, a pulmonary
specialist at the University of California at Los
Angeles, says that chicken soup does work to fend off a
cold, and that there is sound medical reasoning behind
According to Ziment, as reported in
Health Magazine, "Chicken, like most protein foods,
contains a natural amino acid called cystine, which is
released when you make the soup." Ziment says that this
amino acid "bears a remarkable chemical similarity to a
drug called acetylcysteine, which doctors prescribe for
bronchitis and repiratory infections." Added proof is
that acetylcysteine was originally derived form chicken
feathers and skins.
But just not any old
chicken soup will do, says Ziment. The spicier the
better, with lots of chile peppers, hot curry and as
much garlic as you or your co-workers can stand. Mix
this together and you've got a "potent pharmacological
brew," he says. However, it's not just the chicken that
makes this remedy work
Chili peppers may do more than light a
fire in your mouth. Research suggests they fight
disease, ease pain and may even help you lose weight!
Some like it hot. And Maybe the rest of us should
develop a taste for spicy dishes with chili peppers.
"Hotter is healthy," says New York
nutritionist Shari Lieberman, R.D. "Chilies have long
been used to treat circulatory problems and added to
other herbs to increase their potency."
Now research suggests the chili pepper
may be strong medicine on its own. Most of its medicinal
and anti aging powers are credited to capsaicin a
compound found in the seeds and veins.
chronic diseases. Capsaicin acts as an antioxidant.
Just like vitamins A, C and E, it disarms
cell-damaging molecules called free radicals
believed to promote heart disease and other
life-shortening ailments. And one jalapeno has more
vitamin C than three oranges; it's also a good
source of vitamins A and E.
cancer. Capsaicin may short-circuit various kinds of
cancer. In lab tests, it helps keep toxic substances
from attaching to the DNA within the body's cells,
where they can trigger changes that lead to cancer.
- Busts up
blood clots. "Capsaicin has been shown to be a
natural blood thinner, which helps prevent clots
that block arteries, leading to heart attacks and
strokes," says Lieberman. Blood clots are rare in
Thailand, where people eat chili peppers daily. One
small-scale study found that people who ate peppery
noodles had a temporary rise in their blood's
pain. Jean Carper, author of Food: Your Miracle
Medicine, claims that inhaling capsaicin can stop a
headache and research suggests that it's an
effective topical painkiller. Yale Medical School's
pain management center found that Capsaicin served
in taffy controlled pain from mouth sores in many
chemotherapy patients. And a cream containing
capsaicin reduces the pain of arthritis and
shingles. Scientists theorize the fiery compound
either blocks pain signals or stimulates the same
nerve fibers that react to a burn or injury, so the
body releases natural painkillers, endorphins.
- Speeds up
metabolism. A British study found hot peppers boost
the metabolic rate, which burns extra calories. And
losing excess pounds is as good for your health as
it is for your vanity, since it reduces the risk of
adult onset diabetes, heart disease, high blood
pressure and certain cancers.
So consider adding a mouth-burning meal to your
diet once a week. Cool your palate with cheese, milk
or yogurt. Serve chili, spice up scrambled eggs and
other dishes with a chili-based oil (such as
Mongolian Fire Oil) and snack on salsa.
Sipping chicken soup spiced with chili powder,
garlic and onions is "the best cold remedy there is"
says UCLA professor of medicine lrwinZiment, M.D.
Chicken soup contains a compound that thins mucus,
making it easier to expel. And fiery foods help
combat nasal and chest congestion by triggering the
release of fluids that dilute mucus. That's why your
eyes water and your nose runs when you chew on a
chili pepper or eat spicy Mexican food.
When patients with serious lung
conditions like chronic bronchitis visit Dr. Irwin
Ziment's office in Sylmar, California, he's got a
red-hot prescription for them: "decongestant soup" made
with plenty of hot chile peppers.
Eat hot foods regularly, he tells the
visitors, and you may wind up with healthier lungs.
In the short term, peppers help clear
your lungs if you've got a case of bronchial congestion,
says Dr. Ziment, chief of medicine at Olive View UCLA
Medical Center. That's why hot foods are good if you've
got a cold and feel like you're stuffed up. In the long
run, they improve the health of your respiratory system.
The key is capasaicin, the ingredient
that makes hot peppers hot. How much should you eat? As
much as you can tolerate, says Dr. Ziment. "Start off
with milder amounts, then work up. Daily use is a good
One of our favorite ways to enjoy hot
chile peppers is in a mild garlic-potato soup (the mild
garlic taste comes from a long, slow cook). It's a
version of a classic Mediterranean garlic soup, with a
cayenne punch. Studies have shown that garlic also helps
you resist the flu, may lower blood pressure and reduces
the risk of stomach cancer. Plus, comments Dr. Ziment,
it's a mild decongestant.
Soup with Potatoes, Cayenne
One head garlic, about 16 cloves, separated, unpeeled
1/4 tsp. dried sage, or 1/2 tsp. minced fresh
1/4 tsp. dried thyme, or 1/2 tsp. minced fresh
1/2 bay leaf
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium potato, pared, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 sprigs parsley, chopped fine
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, or more, to taste
In a 2- or 3-quart saucepot over high
heat, bring a quart of water to boil; drop in unpeeled
garlic cloves. Boil 30 minutes. Retrieve garlic by
pouring through sieve or colander, discard water. Rinse
garlic under cold water. Squeeze each clove out of its
akin back into the pot. Add one quart cold water, the
fresh and dried herbs and olive oil. Bring to boil,
reduce heat, and simmer for to minutes. Add potatoes,
return to boil, reduce heat, simmer another 20 minutes.
Remove bay leaf. Turn off heat. Add ground pepper and
salt to taste, and X teaspoon of cayenne or as much
cayenne as you can stand.
A person suffering from ulcers should
never eat Chile. Right or wrong? Why can some people eat
hot chiles and others cannot?
Finally, we're getting the answers to
some of these questions. Regarding the ulcer inquiry,
investigators at the National University Hospital in
Singapore examined the inner lining of the stomach with
sophisticated technology to investigate the causes of
"A lot of people feel that a pepper is
bad for their ulcers and their stomach," said Dr. Fin Y.
Kang. "We've shown that it does not harm the stomach and
may even help."
The scientists gave patients temporary
gut damage with irritants such as aspirin or alcohol,
then applied capsaicin to the damaged areas. Rather than
aggravating the damage, capsaicin somehow eased the
The scientists speculated that the
capsaicin stimulates nerve fibers that release a hormone
which increases blood flow to the area and helps to
protect the stomach from irritants. But they insist that
diluted capsaicin - not the peppers themselves - would
be the most efficacious.
The reason some people cannot eat hot
chiles is simple, really. They are called supertasters
and have nearly twice the number of taste buds per
centimeter of tongue area. Approximately onefourth of
the population are supertasters, while half have normal
taste and another fourth are called nontasters because
of their lack of taste buds. The supertastcrs are
acutely sensitive to sweet, spicy, and bitter tastes,
and hence have less tolerance to chiles. Nontasters can
enter chile-eating contests, and often do.
- 8 to 10 ounces habanero chiles,
chopped with the seeds
- 1 quart olive oil
Combine the ingredients and bring to a
slow boil. Reduce heat and simmer very genty for 4
hours. Let cool for 4 hours. Repeat this procedure two
more times. Place the mixture in blender and blend on
high for 20 seconds. Strain the mixture through a sieve
that has been lined with muslin (pantyhose will do just
as well) and place in small bottles.
Yield: 8 4-ounce containers of lotion
Variations: You can also enhance the
formula by adding 40 drops of lavender oil to the
You can make a cream by adding 6
ounces of melted beeswax to the warm, strained oil. Stir
thoroghly, and shake the bottle until cool.
Caution: Do not rub
your eyes after rubbing your skin with this cream!
If you've ever suffered food poisoning
from tainted raw oysters, as your editor has (it was an
horrendous experience) read on. A team of scientists
from the Louisiana State University Medical Center has
reported a series of tests on a bacterium, Vibrio
vul''ificus, found in some raw oysters that causes
symptoms ranging from mild diarrhea to dangerous blood
poisoning. Some of the suggested oyster treatments
ranged from adjusting the storage temperature downward,
to heat-shocking them, to zapping them with radiation.
Enter hot sauce. At the American Society for
Microbiology meeting last October, the LSU scientists
recounted Flair experiments with test tubes full of
oyster bacteria. Ketchup added to the test tubes had
little effect. ("That doesn't surprise me," wrote
syndicated columnist Calvin Trillin, "When you eat
ketchup, you can tell that nothing much is going on.")
Lemon juice worked "moderately well,"
as did horseradish. But straight hot sauce from a bottle
killed all bacteria in one minute flat. Even diluted
sixteen to one, the hot sauce killed all the bacteria in
"Some of the findings were a little
astonishing to us," said Dr. Kenneth Aldridge, one of
the researchers. "We had no idea these condiments would
be so powerful." They also tested three other varieties
of Vibrio bacteria, as well as E. coli, shigella, and
salmonella. Hot sauce killed them all.
If seafood lovers ever needed a reason
for using hot sauce, they have it now. Is this the
future for sushi and sashimi?
Guide to Chile Peppers:
buying chiles, how do I know if they're fresh?
Judge freshness two ways - by
appearance and aroma. Fresh chiles should be firm and
heavy for their size, with shiny, blemish-free skins.
They should smell fresh and clean.
about dried chiles?
The most flavorful dried peppers
are unbroken, pliable, and pleasingly fragrant. Their
color should be deep and Vibrant.
How can I tell if ground red
hot chile peppers are still good?
These powders should have a deep
rich color and not be too powdery or dry. A slight
lumpiness is desirable - it means the natural oils,
which carry the flavor, haven't evaporated. When you
rub the powder between your fingers, these oils should
leave a stain. Lastly, fresh ground chiles will be
The smaller and redder the
fresh chile, the hotter it is, right?
Maybe. Although smaller varieties
tend to be the hottest, that isn't always the case, and
color is no indication of heat. Hotness is
unpredictable, even within varieties. Where they were
grown, and temperatures and rainfall during the growing
season all play a role in a chile's heat. Ask the
vendor or taste for yourself
are the best ways to store chiles?
Fresh chiles should be wrapped in
paper towels to keep moisture from hastening their decay
and placed in the refrigerator. They'll stay fresh for
two to three weeks.
Store dried peppers and ground
chile peppers in airtight containers in a cool, dry
place. They'll keep up to two years, but will begin to
lose flavor after six months. Dried chiles will keep
their flavors and colors longest if kept in airtight
containers in the refrigerator or freezer.
should I roast fresh green chiles?
Although some small peppers, such
as jalapeños, can be eaten raw or simply added to cooked
dishes, they and larger thick-fleshed peppers, such as
Anaheim, New Mexican, and poblano, are most flavorful
after they've been roasted. Once cooled, the skins slip
off easily, and the meaty flesh can be used in recipes.
Never rinse the roasted chiles because you'll remove
oils that add flavor.
Use roasted and peeled chiles
right away or keep them in the refrigerator for only a
day or two. Or, freeze in airtight freezer bags up to
Can chiles be dangerous to me
as a cook?
Whenever you work with fresh or
dried chile peppers, their volatile oils can burn your
skin, sensitive mucous membranes, and eyes. As a
precaution, put on plastic gloves or slip your hands
into plastic bags before you begin. Avoid touching your
face or eyes while you work, and wash your hands
vigorously with soap and water afterward to remove the
How can I lessen a chile
Capsicum is the natural chemical
in chiles that gives them their hotness. It's
concentrated around the stems, inner membranes, and
seeds. You can scrape away the seeds and the vienlike
membranes inside fresh chiles using a knife, or simply
pull them off dried peppers. Stems are easily removed.
Try to avoid reducing heat by
using fewer chiles in a recipe - remember that chiles
contribute complex flavor, not just heat. If you're new
to hot dishes, however, it's best to start out with
fewer chiles. You can always add more as your plate
becomes accustomed to the heat.
How To Roast A
1. Wash your peppers!
2. With a knife or some other
sharp object cut a few small slits in your peppers.
This is important because your peppers will explode if
you don't - I know this from experience!
3. Place your chiles on a
foil-lined baking sheet - do not stack. Bake in a 425
degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or till the skin
blisters and turns brown. You might want to turn them
over to get the back side, but I personally don't think
this is all too necessary...
4. After you pull the chiles out
of the oven - enclose the peppers in the foil and let
stand for 20 to 30 minutes.
5. When the peppers have cooled
enough to handle, halve them lengthwise; The skins
should pull off with your hands, but you can use a
6. Scrape away and discard the
ribs and seeds (if you don't want them). The chemical
(Capsicum) that gives peppers their heat is most
concentrated in those areas.
Always use plastic gloves or slip your
hands into plastic bags before playing with chile
by John Raven, Ph. B.
Whoa! We had a nice article about my
dream kitchen all lined up for this month, but our
readers are demanding CHILI. Ah, yes. After that long,
hot summer the cooling winds of fall are coming down off
the highlands signaling our bodies that chili is needed
to fight off the ravages of the coming cold seasons.
As I hope we all know, chili was
invented in San Antonio, Texas, about the middle of the
Nineteenth Century. It began as a simple peasant stew
using materials inexpensive and at hand. Meat, chile
peppers, comino, oregano and garlic made up the first
recipes. All the spices except the comino grow wild in
South Texas. The comino was imported from the Canary
Islands by settlers in San Antonio in the 1700s.
The reputation of the bowl of chili
was carried all across the nation by the cooks of the
giant cattle drives of the late 1800s. The dish always
tasted good and was full of vitamins and minerals that
made the body feel good. The fat content packed a lot of
calories to fuel the cattle-driving machines known as
During the great depression, the
"chili joint" came into existence and made it possible
for anyone with a nickel or a dime to have a satisfying
meal. The serving included crackers and ketchup. Many of
the survivors of the great depression look back fondly
on chili as one of the few bright lights in the ordeal.
As the depression filled and the
economy grew, chili lost some of its magic. There were,
however, true believers who raised the lowly bowl of red
to cult status. Most notable was the Chili Appreciation
Society International that grew up around Dallas. Once a
month or so, a group of these Chiliheads would gather to
consume and tout the virtues of chili. They were serious
in a humorous way. They wrote songs and poems about
chili. They came up with rituals like The Crumbling of
the Crackers to make their meetings entertaining. They
distributed recipes to every part of the known world to
spread appreciation of their favorite food.
In 1967, at the ghost town of
Terlingua, Texas, the first known chili competition took
place. The object was to determine who was the best
chili chef in the whole world. This happening grew into
the huge chili cookoff industry that continues today.
Every weekend, hundreds of chiliheads gather at dozens
of chili cookoffs to find the perfect bowl of red.
Okay, now you know a lot more about
chili history - maybe more than you wanted to know. Lets
get on with the nuts and bolts of the dish.
The principal ingredient of chili is
meat, usually beef, although pork, venison and other red
meats are sometime used. Pardon me, but any dish made
with poultry and chili seasonings is not chili. Maybe
its chili flavored turkey stew or something,
but chili its not.
My preference for chili meat is chuck
from the arm of the bovine. Top round and rump roast
make equally good chili. Remove anything white from the
meat. The meat can be ground to chili size, which is as
coarse as the grinder will cut. But I prefer hand-cut
cubes of the meat, about one-half inch square. Another
pardon me: Hamburger does not make chili; it makes chili
The predominant seasoning is the chile.
There are hundreds of varieties of chile peppers. The
original and still favorite type for chili is the ancho.
To add confusion to the issue, ancho chiles, when green,
are known as poblanos. But we are dealing here with the
ancho, which comes to market dried. It will be dark,
reddish brown and look a lot like a run-over bat.
However, when reduced to powder or reconstituted with
water it makes wonderful chili.
Only the traditionalists still make
chili from ancho pulp. This requires removing seeds and
stems from the dried pods, soaking them in hot water and
then removing the pulp with a food mill. Just too much
work for the average cook.
The chili powder we buy to make our
bowl of red is actually a "chili blend" or spice mix. It
contains among other things, cumin, oregano and garlic.
A pure chili powder without the added seasonings is "chile
More Chili Recipes:
The cumin starts life as comino seeds --
tiny seeds that are very aromatic and pungent. Cumin is
simply ground comino seeds. Comino can be used in the
chili, although most folks prefer the cumin. If you want
to try the comino, toast the seeds in a heavy skillet
before you add them to the pot. If you have a way to
grind the seeds, toast them first and then grind them.
It really improves the flavor. Cumin is the spice that
gives chili its heavily distinctive aroma.
Red pepper or cayenne is what puts the
bite in your chili. Cayenne has what is called a "back
bite." That is, it takes a few seconds before it grabs
your taste buds. Most folk cant abide too much red
pepper. Go easy on it to start.
Millions of words have been written on
the subject of how to construct a proper pot of chili.
If you are really interested in learning a lot more, go
find a copy of "The Great Chili Book" by Bill Bridges.
Heres a starting recipe for chili
Basic Texas Chili
In a heavy skillet, sauté the meat in a
small amount of oil or shortening until it is gray and
gives up its juices. Transfer the meat to a stew pot and
discard the juices.
- 2 pounds beef, round or chuck,
cut into ½" cubes, all white removed
- 1 small onion, chopped fine
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2-3 tablespoons blended chili
powder, Adams preferred
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons flour
- ½ cup water
While the meat is still hot, mix in
the onion and garlic, salt and black pepper to taste.
Cover and let set for 30 minutes.
Add enough water to cover the meat.
Put in the spices and bring to a simmer. Cook until the
meat is tender. You may have to add more water if the
mix becomes too dry. Add the tomato sauce and simmer
another 20 minutes.
If the chili is not spicy enough for
your taste, add a small amount of cayenne.
Mix 2 tablespoons flour with one half
cup of water. Raise the heat under the chili until you
get a good boil. Stir in the flour/water mixture and
continue stirring until mixture thickens. Reduce heat
and simmer about 15 more minutes. Serve with saltines or
You can buy well-priced cast-iron skillets from Amazon
by clicking here.
This recipe will get you started on your
way to becoming a fine chili chef. Experiment with the
recipe. Try different brands of chili powder. If you end
up with two favorite brands, mix them half-and-half and
see what result that brings.
Garlic needs to go in the pot in the
last half of the cooking process as it will lose its
whomp if cooked too long. Oregano will become bitter
with too much cooking, so it too needs to go in toward
the end of the cooking time.
Here are a few chili "secrets":
Most of all, experiment. Read
all the recipes you can find. This way you will be ready
for that cool weather that demands CHILI!
- Chili that is bitter can be
sweetened with a little dark brown sugar. Just
enough to kill the bitterness.
- Chili that is too salty can be
rescued by boiling a peeled potato in the pot. The
potato will absorb a lot of the salt. Also, if your
chili comes out way too thin, add some instant
mashed potatoes. This will also absorb salt and is
an easy way to stretch a pot of chili when an
unexpected guest shows up.