Produce Spotlight on Hot Peppers
Hot Peppers come in many colors and degrees of heat. They contain capsaicin, a chemical that creates a burning sensation and makes these peppers taste hot. A pepper’s heat depends on its variety, soil, and climate when grown. Hot peppers can help calm an upset stomach and reduce intestinal gas. (Bell peppers do not contain capsaicin and are not spicy.)
Shopping for Hot Peppers
Choose firm, brightly colored peppers. Avoid peppers that feel soft to the touch or have wrinkled skin. Fresh hot peppers are available in the grocery store year-round. Find Massachusetts-grown peppers in farmers’ markets in July through October. Hot peppers are available in many forms: fresh, canned, dried, and frozen. Their heat is measured by the Scoville Scale: the higher the number, the hotter the pepper.
Jalapeño – medium-sized pepper usually picked while green; medium heat. When dried, they are called chipotle peppers.
Cayenne – thin, long red pepper; moderately hot. Thai – small, tapering pepper with fruity taste; quite hot.
Habanero – pod-shaped small pepper that goes from green to orange and red as it matures; very hot.
Storage and Preparation
- Wear kitchen gloves when touching the seeds of hot peppers to avoid transferring any capsaicin to your eyes and skin.
- Wash peppers under cold running water before using.
- To prepare, remove stem, slice pepper in half lengthwise, and remove seeds and ribs. Use whole, sliced, or diced.
- Refrigerate fresh peppers for up to three days.
- To freeze, place whole or chopped peppers in a freezer-safe bag, remove as much air as possible, and label and date. Use within six months.
- Top nachos with sliced jalapeños.
- Add hot peppers and some lime juice to stir-fries.
- For extra flavor, include hot peppers in a breakfast burrito.
- Spice up salsa and chili with finely chopped hot peppers.
Hot Pepper Math
1 medium jalapeño =
½ ounce 1 medium jalapeño =
¼ cup chopped
Using Locally Grown Produce
For recipes featuring fruits and vegetables, visit our website https://extension.umass.edu/nutrition/recipes/. To locate places to buy local produce, visit https://www.mass.gov/orgs/massachusetts-grownand-fresher.