Mouth on fire

Guest garden post from Farmer Brown . . .

Observation: Some varieties of peppers get hotter when bitten into and then sit in the fridge for a few days.

We’ve noticed this a few times this summer.  I grew a number of peppers that can range in heat levels (variety of heat levels from peppers on a single plant), so I started tasting a pepper from each plant as I picked, and sorting them into bags for hot and sweet (not hot).  But some of the peppers I’d tasted wound up being very hot, even though they were in the sweet bag.*

We decided that maybe since I was tasting the tips, it was that some of the tips were mild even though the tops were hot, so I started tasting both places, and I caught more, but still we’d get hot peppers in our sweet bag.

I then tried tasting all of the peppers at a picking, but still some wound up hot in the sweet bag.

I have a hypothesis that some of the peppers (that have potential to get hot) release more capsaicin (what makes them hot) when they’ve been bitten into.  This would make sense if capsaicin is a defense against being eaten (by mammals).

Has anyone else noticed this?  I keep meaning to get around to somewhat more formal experimenting, but I haven’t yet.  I’ll write more if/when I do.

*Melissa’s note: Since I’ve been doing most of the cooking lately, I’ve usually been the “lucky” one to encounter the surprise peppers in what should have been the sweet and mild bag.  I’ve had a enough unpleasant experiences — burning lips, mouth, and a random place on my face that I touched after handling a pepper — that I’m quite wary now.

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