Chile Pepper

What Peppers Have Capsaicin?

What peppers have capsaicin?  That’s the question of the day, if you are looking either for hot peppers — or those that are not!  So what is capsaicin, and what peppers have it?

What is Capsaicin?

The first thing is to understand what capsaicin is.  For one, it’s the component that make spicy peppers taste spicy.  In its pure form, it’s highly irritant, but highly diluted (like in your average chili pepper) it can provide that pleasurable kick of heat.

Capsaicin is also used an as ingredient in many medical ointments — surprisingly, as an analgesic!  Very interesting for a chemical which is an irritant.  Just a little can help relieve pain, while a lot can cause burns.

Capsaicin does not dissolve in water, so if you are eating a pepper and it’s too hot for you, don’t drink water or soda — it will just spread it around your mouth.  Instead, something dairy based like sour cream, milk or ice cream will help to cool the burning sensation.

In it’s pure form, capsaicin has a Scoville rating of 16,000,000 (yes, 16 million).  And you thought Bhut Jokolia was super-hot at something over 1 million Scoville!

What Peppers Have Capsaicin?

Now that we know what it is, what peppers have capsaicin?  A few years ago I would have said that bell peppers don’t have it; however, there are now bell peppers which have it.  Not many varieties, but there are at least three that I have heard about.  The vast majority of the time, bell peppers will not have the capsaicin in them.  (You have to go looking for the bells that have some capsaicin.)

What about other peppers, especially the ones marketed as being “no heat” (like “no heat habaneros”) — do they have capsaicin?

In general, peppers listed as being sweet will not have it, or will have capsaicin in such low quantities as to be absent.  Examples include sweet banana peppers and sweet frying peppers.  There are also a few ornamental peppers which have very low or no capsaicinSweet Pickle and Chilly Chilli are two that come to mind.

  • Note:  If you are familiar with the seasoning called Old Bay, it has a Scoville rating of about 800.  This gives you a point of reference for comparing.

As to the hot pepper varieties marketed as being “no heat” versions of the hot stuff…don’t count on there being no capsaicin in these peppers.  What they have is just a little bit (usually under 400 Scoville), and it’s mostly concentrated in the seeds and the placenta (the light membrane on the inside ribs of the pepper).  If you remove those before eating, you’ll have reduced your chance of some accidental “hot stuff” a great deal.

One other thing — there is less capsaicin in an unripe pepper.  As a pepper ripens, the capsaicin concentrates more.  So eating the peppers while they are in their green state (or whatever color their unripe state is) will also help reduce the burn.

Conversely, waiting until the hot peppers are ripe will increase the heat!

Looking for Some Hot Stuff?

I mentioned above that you’ll mostly find capsaicin in the seeds and the placental membrane.  However, for the true hot peppers (those marketed as being hot), you’ll also find it in the “meat” of the pepper.  And on the outside of the peppers as well.

For example, if you’re picking habaneros, scotch bonnets or any of the super-hots, you’re well advised to wear disposable gloves while doing so.  You probably also want to plant the really hot peppers in a corner of the garden where you won’t easily brush up against them.  The capsaicin on the exterior of the pepper can transfer to your clothing, and from your clothing to somewhere sensitive.

Been there, done that, it’s not comfortable.  But I can’t deny that really hot peppers are super-fun to grow (carefully, LOL)!

Yellow Cayenne Pepper

Yellow Cayenne Hot Chile PepperThe yellow cayenne pepper is doing well in my fall garden.  It’s had some setbacks, but my oh my, are there peppers!  I certainly can’t complain that there aren’t enough, or that the peppers aren’t big enough.

Yellow cayenne is shaping up to be a nice choice for the fall garden.

What a Wet September!

I planted the pepper around Labor Day 2014, and after a few nice days, the rest of the month was rain, rain…and more rain.  Even though it was in the greenhouse, it was right by the door, which stayed open for ventilation.  So my poor pepper got very wet.  And then to make matters worse, the sunlight was hit and miss — there were days at a stretch where there was little to no direct sunlight.  No wonder why the plant ended up a little on the leggy side by the end of September!

I planted the peppers in a smart pot, so the roots were able to get enough air and not end up drowning.  I am not sure that the peppers would have made it had I planted in a standard plastic pot, as wet as it was.

October brought more challenges, in the form of an insect attack.  While the insects didn’t bother the peppers, they did enjoy munching on the leaves (groan).  I finally sprayed with some organic neem oil and the remaining leaves weren’t find of that — some of the leaves withered up.  But finally, after some days of sunshine and when cooler nights started, Yellow Cayenne started looking happier.  And now towards the end of October, the ripe peppers are flowing in!

Peppers Galore

Cayenne is what I would call a medium-hot pepper.  Well, compared to things like habaneros, at any rate!  Yellow cayenne is somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 Scoville units.

Cayenne Yellow bears fairly early; actually it was the earliest of my fall pepper garden.  The peppers are around three to five inches long.  They start off green, and stay that way for awhile — you can eat them green if you like.  But, if you want them sweeter and hotter, wait until they mature to a golden yellow.  And if you can, I’d recommend waiting until they turn yellow before you pick them.  The green ones taste…well, green!  (They are indeed hot though, even when they are green.)

Talking about golden yellow — it’s a really nice change from red peppers.  Not to mention it looks great in the garden (as well as on your plate).  They kind of remind me of splashes of bright sunshine.

The plant is not stingy in the least with its fruiting — it started bearing early on, and it’s happily continued bearing.  One plant has kept me in plenty of chile peppers that are nice and spicy.

Pepper Garden – Fall 2014 Redoux

For my homegrown peppers garden a la Fall 2014, there have already been changes.  It’s amazing how fast plans can go out the door and vanish!  But, I have new pepper plants in place, so here’s the (new) lineup.

Before I list the peppers, I’ll note that my plans changed because of two things.  The first is my greenhouse and the second is the Fall/Winter weather predictions for South Florida.  It’s supposed to get rather chilly early on, and a cooler Fall/Winter overall, compared to 2013.

Fall 2014 Pepper Lineup, Take 2

Purple Flash, Early September 2014.

Purple Flash, Early September 2014.

Given the above, my plans changed to buy some starter plants and not grow as many of the seeds (waiting until Thanksgiving to plant those).  So here goes for what’s now on deck.

Purple Flash:  This is a pepper with purple foliage.  The new leaves are green, kind of variegated.  As they get older, they turn a lovely dusky purple.  Peppers start as purple, then turn red as they mature.  Since I bought it as a starter, I picked off all the peppers after I transplanted so as to de-stress the plant.  I have it planted in a 5-gallon container.

Cayenne Yellow:  A cayenne pepper, only with peppers that mature to a lemon-color, instead of red.  It’s supposed to be just as hot as a regular cayenne.  I have it cohabiting with a pepper called Cajun Bell in a 12-gallon grow bag / smart pot.

Cajun Belle:  This is interesting; it’s a hybrid bell peppers that supposedly is a little on the spicy side.  Who could resist — not me, for sure!  So I planted it with Cayenne Yellow, as well as an Italian basil plant.

Dragon Cayenne:  The name drew me in, so I figured I’d grow it and compare to the Yellow Cayenne plant.  It’s sharing a 20-gallon smart pot with a Tabasco pepper and some cinnamon basil.

Tabasco (upper left), Dragon Cayenne (upper right) and Cinnamon Basil (foreground).  These were just planted 3 days ago.

Tabasco (upper left), Dragon Cayenne (upper right) and Cinnamon Basil (foreground). These were just planted 3 days ago.

Tabasco:  I don’t recall if this one had a specific variety name, but I picked it to grow for two reasons.  First, if I’ve ever grown Tabasco peppers, it’s been years and years, so why not try them?  Second, the plant was so pretty!  So, in the grow bag with the Dragon Cayenne and basil.

Habanero:  No variety listed.  I almost didn’t get this starter plant, because habanero peppers typically take a long time to fruit, and it’s already the middle of September.  But, I have a greenhouse, so what the heck — live a little!  (And hopefully the plant will live more than a little, LOL.)  I haven’t decided on where to put this one yet.

Red Bell Pepper:  No specific variety name.  I didn’t have any regular bells as a starter plant so thought I’d add this one in.  It’s also waiting doe its home….which I suspect will be with the habanero.  And more basil, or perhaps oregano.

For seedlings that have already popped their heads up, I have:

Fooled You Jalepeno:  A no-heat jalapeno pepper, which I have  never  grown before.  It’s a hybrid, and I’ll see how “no heat” it turns out to be.  I am growing this mostly for my husband David, who prefers the no-heat.

Trinidad Perfume:  This was in my original lineup, and it’s a no-heat habanero.  This one is really for me, since I have no idea what a habanero really tastes like — it’s usually all I can do to fan my mouth and look around for ice cream to cool the burn when I eat the regular ones.  😉

Flamingo:  A pretty bell pepper that changes colors as the pepper matures.  This one is sweet (unlike Cajun Belle).  Looking forward to trying it.

Tri-Fetti:  This is one of my old (5+ years) seeds.  I planted quite a few, not knowing how many would germinate (if any).  I see at least one of them coming up, and I think a second one as well.  The plants are gorgeous, and I have a hard time finding the seeds, so I am glad that I’ll have some plants and be able to save some new seeds.  These are mostly ornamental, but the peppers are edible – and hot!

Orange Thai Hot:  These are also from the 5+ year old seed batch, but they aren’t showing any signs of germination yet.  Still early days, though, so I’ll wait another couple of weeks to see if I get anything from them.

That’s it for now, but I’ll keep you posted on their progress.