Two bangs and one tuneful whimper in The Amalgamated Aggromulator

  • Oct. 3, 2014, 1:14 a.m.
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The peppers are ripe!

(No, those are grapes right there, sure enough. I just thought they were pretty to look at starting off. They grow right in the same double row with the peppers, anyway.)

Many have been coming ripe for a while. The ones I worried about most (because they like more hot days than we really had) took the longest, but now even the last laggards, the Chocolate Bhut Jolokias, are turning from green.

Of the sweet peppers, we think the Chinese Giant is our new favorite for juiciness, a big blocky thick-walled bell type, but there is also the bulky Giant Aconcagua and the Marconi Purple; I’d say the Aconcagua took second place. (We believed that we were also growing an old favorite sweet, the delicious Jimmy Nardello, which looks exactly like a long thin red hot cayenne type - but somehow, at either seed or seedling stage, it got switched with something else that really WAS that and I burned my lips when I tried one.)

We just went with some choices from last year for the “normal” hot stir-fry-level peppers: little pointy Thais, bigger Goat Horns, some Jalapeños.

And of course there were the “chile with an e” peppers beloved of anyone from New Mexico, the Anaheims and Big Jims and NuMex Joe Parkers, all variations on the one theme, good for hamburgers and enchiladas and chile rellenos.

We didn’t manage to do Habaneros or any others of that heat level like Fataalis; we fumbled a round of seedlings this spring and dried them out. Maybe a survivor or two went with the plant sales in the spring. (Next year we’ll probably grow Scotch Bonnets for that niche, because a woman from the Caribbean came to one of our plant sales and told us that those have the best flavor by far.)

Of all those, probably the Chinese Giant was the standout new addition to the ones we will definitely grow for ourselves in future. But what I’ve been waiting for in particular are three new experiments - two of which are the second and third hottest peppers on Earth - and one of which is… unusual.


Trinidad Moruga Scorpion

The fruits of the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion ripen to a bright red-and-nothing-but, and they look a bit like turbans - turbulent turbans, I guess - with a sort of spike on the bottom.

Chocolate Bhut Jolokia

The Bhut Jolokias have stayed green for the longest time, four-or-five-inch tapering peppers but not smooth ones, with a growth pattern and shape that looked… strangely withered, despite the fresh green color… like a child with progeria… or as if an invisible, intangible heat or power had stricken them. (Of course, I have known how very hot they are, so my imagination is definitely tainted.) Now that they are finally turning color - this variety is not the usual bright red or orange - well, it’s called Chocolate - so, they are ripening to brown… which I was at first struck by because in the early stages it was not a good brown at all - it was the worst imaginable. There was no good way to describe that flat shade of brown - one had a choice between dog and human excrement. Which, in combination with the shape… horrendous. As you see, I did not photograph them when I did the others. But now they seem to be maturing into something truly, richly Chocolate. (… I’m a little disappointed. -smiles-)

I give no true report on either now; I am delaying tasting those two terrors until I can crunch them up simultaneously in Skype with Christy in Philadelphia some evening very soon. Which helps in nerving/shaming myself to actually make the jump, of course. She’s probably received hers in the mail by now; for myself I have obtained a small tub of strawberry ice cream for a parachute.

(We did this last year with Red Savina Habaneros, again just as a matter of “seeing how deep the rabbit hole goes.” Laughing commentary with increasingly halting speech, whooshing breath, and sudden rivers of sweat otherwise ever seen only from Richard Burton in his drunkenly intense performance in Exorcist II: The Heretic.)

*Becket* was never like this.

Meanwhile I’ve also sent a couple of both to two friends in Columbus, Ohio, who are slightly saner; instead of sampling the extreme directly, they are going to use them to make a truly interesting batch of chili. I have a feeling there will be a large open container of sour cream on the dinner table.

The third one of special note is Grenada Seasoning.

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The leaves of Grenada Seasoning are the largest of any pepper I’ve seen. The fruits themselves are big (a hair less than lemon-sized) orange-yellow rumpled slightly deflated balloons.

These are… interesting. They have only a fraction of the heat they should have - “should” because they are a close relative of, and resemble, the very hottest peppers. On tasting, they in fact turn out to fit the slot of a “pepper with mild heat” better than anything else we have. (The Santa Fe Grande, a small pepper we tried growing this year that was supposed to be milder than the rather-mild Anaheim “chile” type, turned out to be more painfully sharp-beaked than the description would suggest.) But the mildness is strange. Your mouth is filled with something that you’d think should be hurting you, because it tastes… very different from…

… any pepper that isn’t very, very hot. See, this is where I run into the fact that it is not possible to describe a taste except by comparing it to a different one. The flavor is reminiscent of the flavor of a habanero, which I’ve had. I probably want to say it’s a “warm” flavor and an “orange” flavor for that reason. Otherwise? I can’t say. The word “fruity” has been used to describe the taste, and - (I just went and got one to nibble now) - yes. Kind of! “Citrusy” might be closest (especially if you get a nip of the citrus peel). But if you bit into a real citrus fruit and tasted this, you would think something was seriously wrong, so…? All I know is that I want to experiment with it in stir frying.

(I rue the problem with describing taste around the Anaheim/Big Jim chiles, too. The green chile of the Southwest deserves evangelizing, but it can’t be done except by demonstration.)

Anyway. That’s how the peppers have come out this year.


A chemistry tidbit I read only recently: I knew that not all pepper “hot” is the same sort of hot. Some peppers BITE your lips and tongue, sharp and mean, even when they are not a very hot pepper at all in the scale of things. Sometimes the bite is further back in your mouth and throat. And some of the hottest peppers never really “bite” at all, it’s just warmth that builds and builds (AND BUILDS).

I read that there is a reason for this. Capsaicin molecules vary somewhat in their shapes, notably in the structure of a sort of tail… and it is this tail that binds with receptors and lets the molecule pass through cell membranes. Different hot peppers make this tail in different shapes. Depending on the shape, it interacts or fails to interact with various zones of the mouth and different sorts and layers of epithelium.

(I wonder if something of the magical mildness of the Grenada Seasoning might come from such a molecular variation, rather than just low capsaicin content. Maybe there’s a whole lot of capsaicin in there but that simply never quite takes hold. Because… oh, I don’t know - my frame of reference is contaminated by repeated experiences with the blue-white flame of the orange habanero. But to me nibbling on a Grenada Seasoning just doesn’t have the feel of “it’s a very mild pepper”! The pattern, or something, of what heat there is does not feel right for that, doesn’t feel quite that simple. It feels more like a suicide who puts the barrel of a huge pistol in his mouth, squeezes the trigger, there is the roar of the gun - but then he is just sitting there blinking, alive and unhurt, but with identical tiny rings of gunpowder smoke gyrating away from both ears.)

Last updated October 03, 2014

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