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Albuquerque Innsights

A local innkeeper knows New Mexico secrets and tells anyone who will listen.

What is the hottest part of the chili pod? Not the seeds.

I was watching a food show on the Travel Channel the other day. It was Adam Richman’s Man vs Food. At one point in the broadcast he mentioned that seeds were the hottest part of the chili pepper and that burns me up because it is not so. I like Adam, and his show – but he is wrong on this one.

jalapeno peppers

If you really like the heat, cut the jalapenos like wheels leaving the membrane in, as if often seen on nachos, but for a more delicate flavor the strips seem to work better.

The part of the chili pod that has the most heat is the membrane inside that the seeds are attached to. Seeds themselves do not hold much heat if any. The only benefit that the seeds may give you if you leave them in when preparing a dish may be as a source of fiber.

This seed theory is a common misconception, but any expert on capsicum plants will tell you it ain’t in the seeds. All chili peppers are members of the capsicum family and they all pack some level of heat, even bell peppers.

Being a Jersey Girl I had no idea how to prepare chili dishes when I moved to New Mexico. I loved chili, but was clueless on what to do. I used to buy my new found culinary delight – fresh green chili – from the farmer’s market and used them as if they were bell peppers – just chopped ‘em up fresh and threw them in with onions and other veggies when I sautéed. I even did this with spaghetti sauce, using the green chili in place of green bell peppers. I didn’t know any better, and ignorance was bliss for at least a year until a friend told me…”Ya know, you’re suppose to roast and skin those.” Huh? No wonder the skins seemed a little tough.

the membrane of a jalapeno pepper

I usually remove the membrane in jalapeno peppers, but you don’t have to skin these.

So I got educated. Now after 30 plus years of practice I’m a pretty good New Mexican food  cook, but over these 30+ years I have had a change in tastes, so to speak. In my younger years the heat was a blast – the hotter the better. Now the flavor of whatever kind of chili I am eating is so much more important to me, so I remove the membrane of really hot chili peppers when prepping them for a recipe. The whole chili pepper has heat, but the majority of this heat is packed into the white membrane that the seeds hang onto in the center of the pepper.

I feel I would be remiss in not telling you all that the heat in a chili pepper is no laughing matter when it comes to your delicate body parts, so be very harmful during and after prepping chili peppers of all kinds. DO NOT rub your eyes or touch/scratch any other part of yourself until you have had a change to thoroughly wash your hands, with soap, maybe more than once if the chili is really hot. Don’t change a baby diaper either. If you do experience the burn from any chili (capsicum) variety, use a milk product to soak the affected area until the pain is gone or bearable. This is not just my remedy, but also the advise of Poison Control here in Albuquerque. They get these chili pepper calls all the time.

We had a neighbor from Utah who was very enthusiastic about green chili after moving to Albuquerque. He did the usual New Mexico fall ritual of purchasing a freshly roasted sack of chili for use throughout the year. He brought it home and proceeded to skin and package it for freezing. He didn’t know any better and in the middle of his chili ritual he went to use the bathroom without washing his hands FIRST. We got the phone call of panic. We laugh about it now, but he wasn’t laughing at the time. It is a way too common mistake of new comers to our state. Ouch.

If you will be prepping lots of chili, wear gloves or, at very least, use some olive oil on your hands and work it into your cuticles and under your nails. This helps a lot.

For more info on chili peppers I highly suggest books New Mexico’s own chili gurus, Dave Dewitt and Paul W. Bosland. The best is their collaborative effort and in my opinion THE best book on all things pepper -  The Complete Chile Pepper Book: A Gardener’s Guide to Choosing, Growing, Preserving, and Cooking. Enjoy your chili peppers, and be careful out there!

I know the best things to eat in Albuquerque!
Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!


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5 Responses to “What is the hottest part of the chili pod? Not the seeds.”

  1. ario says:

    hi
    this is Ario
    Being a Jersey Girl I had no idea how to prepare chili dish… well one of my friends here is also from Jersey and I also traveled to the Philippines to have some researches on hot pepper. I will be glad if anybody is interested to my project. tnx

  2. Roger says:

    What you are talking about is not a chili, but a chile or pepper. More commonly, a jalepeño is referred to as a pepper. Chile is a pepper; chili is a concoction made with meat and spices.

    • adobenido says:

      from wikipedia…

      Food
      Chili pepper, the spicy fruit of plants in the genus Capsicum; sometimes spelled “chilli” in the UK and “chile” in the southwestern US
      Chili powder, dried, ground red chili peppers, sometimes with cumin and other spices

      from Merriam-Webster…
      chili
      noun \ˈchi-lē\

      : a small pepper with a very hot flavor

      : a spicy dish made of ground beef, hot peppers or chili powder, and usually beans
      plural chil·ies also chil·es or chilis or chil·lies
      Full Definition of CHILI
      1
      a : a hot pepper of any of a group of cultivars (Capsicum annuum annuum group longum) noted for their pungency —called also chili pepper
      b usually chilli plural chillies also chil·lis chiefly British : a pepper whether hot or sweet
      2
      a : a thick sauce of meat and chilies
      b : chili con carne
      See chili defined for English-language learners »
      See chili defined for kids »
      Chili sauce, spicy sauce made primarily from chili powder and/or chopped fresh chili peppers
      Chili con carne, often referred to simply as “chili”, a stew with a chili sauce base
      Chili’s, a restaurant chain specializing in Tex-Mex food

      Let’s put this baby to bed, folks! Agree to disagree.

  3. vintron says:

    just tired it on a Dried naga – Bhut Jolokia…….BANG… that bit is HOT!

  4. jenny says:

    I totally agree with u on tyhis one!!!!!!

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