Some people like to eat spicy food. I don’t. When I was just a little guy, my sister and I sometimes got to visit our neighbor, Miss Plain (actually Gertrude Plain, but we didn’t call her that.) One time I just couldn’t keep my hands off the pretty colored balls on her houseplant. Then I didn’t keep my hands away from my mouth. It started a four alarm fire on my lips. It was a pepper plant.
I received an email from Extension this week that told me a situation where you can experience an extreme sensation, without experiencing actual harm is known as a “constrained risk.”
“Some would say that enjoying hot peppers is a good example of a constrained risk,” said Kelly McGowan, horticulture educator with University of Missouri Extension. “They are pretty easy to grow and you can have as much heat in the taste as you want to grow.”
The chemical responsible for the heat in hot peppers is known as capsaicin. Capsaicin acts on the pain receptors in the mouth, not the taste buds. The sensation has been described as agony and ecstasy combined according to McGowan.
“The brain responds to the burning sensation by raising the heart rate, increasing perspiration and release of endorphins,” said McGowan.
I mentioned this to Travis Stoll, propieter of the Bulldog Brew who is a card carrying member of the Muskogee Creek Indian nation. He was familiar with the Scoville Scale which measures the heat of peppers which range from mildly pungent to fiery hot. Pure capsaicin measures at 15,000,000. The record hot pepper measured 1,000,000 on the Scoville Scale. Bell peppers measure 0, jalepenos at 5,000 and habenaros at 300,000. Once I went upstairs at Buckinghams in Springfield to eat my pulled pork sandwich. Out of curiosity I touched a drop of their hot BBQ sauce to my tungue. I didn’t think I was ever going to be able to catch my breath. It made Miss Plains peppers seem like vanilla ice cream.
The release said that the heat in a chili pepper is located primarily in the placenta and around the seeds of the pepper. It went on to advise that when handling peppers with high heat a person should take some precautions. Use gloves when handling hot peppers. Do not put your hands near your eyes or mouth after handling hot peppers.
Fat or oil – things like milk, bread, butter or alcohol – calms the heat.
– I told Mary about the 91 lb. white cat caught out of the Osage this week. She told me that down in Oklahoma when she was a kid, it was known that a big catfish lived under a low water dam. A guy when in to get him. When he barely escaped with his life, his arm was skinned all the way to the shoulder. He didn’t demand a rematch. Wonder if that would qualify as a constrained risk.
I think fresh horse radish would when I dip raw oysters in it. Makes my head sweat. I can usually get Kimball to try one my way then watch her grip the edge of the table until the sensation lets up. Great for opening your sinuses all the way to the top of your head. KL