Whether you are researching chili peppers for a school project or are just curious, learning about chili peppers can be an interesting project. There are many myths about these peppers which are true, some which are false, and then there are some facts which you may have never even thought about.
Chili Peppers are Fruits
People tend to think of fruits as being sweet and tasty like apples, oranges, and plums. However, scientists define fruits as coming from a flowering plant and having seeds inside to produce more of the same item. Although peppers are often considered to be vegetables, they are actually fruits.
Size Indicates the Spice Level
Although it seems that larger peppers would have more spice to them, in reality, the smaller and thinner a chili pepper is, the spicier it will be.
The Hottest Peppers
Although the jalapeño is one of the most well-known of the spicy peppers, the hottest pepper known to science is the habanero chili pepper.
Cooling Your Mouth After Eating Peppers
After tasting a chili pepper that is hot, you might be tempted to reach for the nearest glass of ice water. However, if you eat or drink dairy products, like milk or ice cream, right after having a spicy pepper, they can help quench some of the heat in your mouth better than water can. The more fat there is in the item you eat, the harder it will work in taking away the heat.
Capsaicin Is What Creates Pepper Spiciness
A molecule called capsaicin is the reason that chili peppers are spicy. When you bite into a pepper, capsaicin affects your taste buds, nerve cells and nasal membranes. This molecule can send information to your brain that you are hot, causing your internal temperature to rise. This is also why you may experience watery eyes and a runny nose when eating spicy peppers. Capsaicin is also the ingredient used to make pepper spray so effective.
Chili Peppers Come in Many Varieties
There are more than 500 varieties of chile and sweet pepper plants.
Chili Peppers Can Burn More than Your Mouth
For some people, the oils inside of chili peppers can literally burn their skin. The same molecule that attacks the inside of your mouth has the ability to affect your skin the same way. If this happens, rinse the area with rubbing alcohol or dairy products. If this does not relieve the pain, you should call a doctor right away.
References and ResourcesChili Pepper Productions: Chili Pepper Trivia
Biology Online: Fruits Flowers and Seeds
Smithsonian.com; What's So Hot About Chili Peppers?; Brendan Borrell; April 2009
Chili Pepper Madness: Frequently Asked Questions about Chili Peppers