I grew up in the Midwest where people are even leery of salt and pepper, so I wasn’t that well-versed in spicy cuisine. I was probably 15 before I ever even had a taco.
It was the usual cereal for breakfast and the occasional scrambled eggs and toast. On weekends my Mother would make pancakes and, if we were really lucky, she’d make crepes, which would be served with butter, powdered sugar and jam. Tasty little suckers!
But I don’t think either of my parents ever bought a jalapeño pepper in their lives. And I don’t remember ever seeing them in the grocery store.
But life goes on and my palate began to yearn for a little more adventure that moved past tuna noodle casserole and scalloped potatoes.
That’s when I discovered the cuisines of Mexico, Japan, Thailand and France. When I began doing extensive traveling I actually got to eat real French food in Paris as well as finally getting a taco in Mexico. I learned about Latin food and got to eat fish-and-chips in London.
But one of favorite wake-up calls was learning to use jalapeño peppers in my own cooking.
Jalapeño peppers are not only hot, they’re really good for you.
But what makes them so hot? Capsaicin. Pronounced "Cap-say-ess-en,” this is the ingredient that makes these little suckers taste so aggressive. The more capsaicin, the hotter the pepper.
And there is a scale that can measure this hotness. It’s called the Scoville scale and it measures the degree of hotness using heat units. Named after Wilbur Scoville, and devised in 1912, the degree of hotness is a rather subjective scale as it relies on human testers to award the number of heat units to each variety of pepper. Jalapeños vary from 2,500 to 5,000 of Scoville Heat Units (SHU) out of a possible 16,000,000 that pure capsaicin measures.
But aside from the heat, which my greys seem to enjoy, there are a lot of really good features of these guys. Apparently they go a long ways to protect your eyes. Two nutrients found in jalapeños are carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin.
And of course this begs the question: What is a carotenoid? Well, it’s the pigment that is found in vegetables with high vitamin A. This is the stuff long thought to be responsible for the reduction of strokes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Those two carotenoids are whisked directly to the retinas of your eyes and help prevent damage from harmful wavelengths of light as well as going a long way to reduce oxidative stress on your eyes. Remember when your mom told you carrots were good for your eyes? Well, on that one, she was right.
They also contain vitamin B6, which plays plays a hefty role in metabolism balance and maintenance. They also have small amounts of calcium, iron and magnesium.
Scientists also surmise that this fiery pepper may lower cholesterol, as well as provide antioxidant properties to the system. Apparently, the higher the Scoville rate, the more antioxidants the pepper contains.
They also contain small amounts of vitamins A and K and folate, and it is suspected that the jalapeño also fights off digestive infection as well as containing a decent amount of fiber. It is believed they fight off free-radicals caused by environmental and dietary pollutants. Jalapeños can also stimulate circulation and relieves high blood pressure, coldness and arthritis.
And if you have a cold, it cuts the mucus in your system acting as an expectorant which relieves congestion.
I use jalapeños in many of the food I feed my greys. And when I’m done chopping it up, I’ll hand over the stem with a some of the pepper still on it to one of my greys. They seem to like food with handles and they finish off the remaining pepper like they were a vacuum cleaner. And if I can get them hunting in a pile of chopped vegetables and downing them due to the finely chopped jalapeño, well then, I’m hooked on jalapeños.
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