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Dietribes: Pepper Your Conversation

• First things first: Differently colored peppers are not different peppers at all! Typically, they signify various stages of growth and maturity. A green pepper is just a red pepper that hasn’t fully ripened (chili, cayenne and jalapeño peppers are all usually harvested when they are green, but will turn red if left to mature). Because of this, green peppers are generally less expensive (it’s riskier, agriculturally, to let the pepper grow to maturity).

• A green pepper with red spots is said to have a suntan. If someone can think of a pepper-related GTL (green … tan …) based on this, I’d like to hear it!

• Mature peppers aren’t necessarily spicier, either, but they do contain higher vitamin content, especially vitamin A. In fact, by weight a sweet red bell pepper contains three times as much vitamin C as a citrus fruit such as an orange. Obtaining C from peppers is laudable business – in 1937 the Nobel Prize was awarded for extracting C for the first time from a chili pepper.

• When it comes to spice, sweet bell peppers anchor the bottom of the Scolville scale, while US grade pepper spray is near the top. Bell peppers (like tomatoes) are a fruit, and contain a recessive gene that eliminates the compound responsible for “hotness” (which all sounds like a very elaborate insult).

• Christopher Columbus first introduced peppers to Europe. And was his way, he mistakenly called them “peppers” after black pepper … which is completely unrelated.

• Europeans have loved peppers ever since – after Barcelona FC tired of lifting the league trophy for two days in their open-top bus parade (for the the third straight season … am I right my culés?), they threw red peppers at their fans instead. Thanks to the excellent @BarcaStuff, we discover that “amb dos pebrots” (with two peppers) is the Catalan, civilized version of the Spanish “con dos cojones” (with two balls), i.e. “with courage.” In fact, the peppers became a symbol that Nike used on the team’s T-shirts for the parade.

• And since I can’t mention peppers without mentioning The Doctor: though it can be speculated as to what significance peppers may have played in the naming of Dr Pepper, the true story may never be known. Created around 1855, the drink was served under its current moniker, though the origins of the name have been sadly lost to history.

• Another member of the Pepper Platoon: You may know your chile from your bell from your jalapeño, but how well can you identify these Sgt Pepper references?

• What are your favorite peppers, Flossers, and how do you consume them? I’m just now getting into bell peppers (confessions of a picky eater) – so tasty!

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.


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