Some like it HOT! Packed with flavour and varying degrees of heat, chilies are the biggest spice crop in the world today. Native to America but popular in Asia and Africa, they have been used as a cheap, easy way to jazz up meals for the past 8,000 years. Chilies come in a variety of different colours, shapes and sizes (they can be as tiny as a pea or as long as a pineapple), and can be incorporated in the diet in numerous ways, from soups and sandwiches to drinks and jellies.
When people refer to a chili as hot, they mean it. The chemical compound capsaicin found in the chilies’ seeds, white fleshy parts and skin stimulates neural sensors in the tongue and skin that detect rising temperatures. Ingesting enough capsaicin can even cause an increase in adrenaline and blood flow, making the brain really think that the tongue is on fire! To measure a chili’s heat, scientists use a scale developed in 1912 by Wilbur Scoville, a pharmacist from Detroit. Bell peppers have 0 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs), while cayenne peppers have 50,000 and the Carolina Reaper (holder of the Guinness World Record) reap over 2,200,000! That’s blow-your-head–off fire power — no doubt that intrigues the dare devils out there!
While we won’t be using the world’s spiciest chilies, we will be turning up the heat throughout our degustation in July. There is an abundance of chilies to choose from, from poblanos (large, green chilies that are delicious roasted and peeled and go great with corn and tomatoes) to jalapenos (green, fat chilies with thick flesh and a light, medium-hot flavour). Because staying local is especially important to us, we’ll be using Hatch chilies, which are native to Hatch, New Mexico and have a meaty flesh perfect for roasting, and Anaheim chilies, a variety of the New Mexico chili with a mild to medium-hot spice level, among other tasty varieties.
Settle into a degustation at Maude in July to see how we’ll transform these red, orange, yellow and green fruits in numerous ways, such as chili flakes, oil, pastes, sauces and powders. We can’t wait to show you all that these spicy summer showstoppers have to offer.