I was fortunate enough to meet Dawn and Eliza while delivering shares in Middleton last week. It’s not often that I have interactions with our members and I very much enjoy knowing where the food is going. The sweet mother-daughter duet excitedly unloaded their vegetables as I unloaded my truck. Little Eliza took a bite out of one of the peppers I had helped harvest, only to turn to me and say, “I’m really enjoying this pepper!” She brightened my day with her questions and love for peppers.
Peppers come from one of the most diverse families in vegetables, Capsicum, derived from the Greek word meaning “to bite”. Take notice of little Eliza taking a bite, or rather large bite in her case, of the pepper in the picture above ☺. There are over 30 species of peppers currently known and only five have been cultivated. The modern peppers we enjoy – chipotle, jalapeño, bell, poblano, serrano, and ancho—to name a few are all from one species (Capsicum annuum). Peppers are constantly being maintained by seed growers in order to breed out bad qualities and increase pleasing flavors. The Carmen peppers little Eliza enjoyed so much is a very recent variety developed organically by Johnny’s Selected Seeds.
Throughout countless years of attempting to survive in a world seeking to eat them, peppers evolved a chemical alkaloid, capsaicin, to protect from herbivory. Capsaicin, the spicy component, resides in the inner membrane and seeds of the fruit. Think of it as a loving mother giving all of her warmth to her children to protect them on their journey. This spicy component efficiently deters pests, even silly little squirrels know not to nibble on the pepper fruit! A word of wisdom to all of you spicy pepper lovers: capsaicin is fat (not water) soluble. So Dawn, if Eliza happens to bite into a spicy jalapeno by mistake, give her some milk to take calm down those heated taste buds.
Keep on loving those peppers, Eliza! We’ll keep growing them ☺
Abigail, crew leader on the farm