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Pep it up with jalapeno

I simply love the taste and flavour of jalapeno peppers and insist on a generous sprinkling of its slices on my pizza. I have yet to figure out what it is about this flavoursome pepper that titillates my taste buds. But for now I just enjoy them.

What is jalapeno pepper
To start at the very beginning, jalapeno pepper is a type of chilli pepper that belongs to the capsicum species. It is a medium sized pepper and its origins can be traced to Mexico. And now of course it is available and popular worldwide. I think its exotic flavour and mild heat, is what endears it to the food aficionados. Its heat level that averages around 5,000 Scoville Heat Units, is hot but not uncomfortably so.

Generally jalapeno peppers are served when green. But if left on the plant for long enough, they turn red which are as delicious as the green ones though a touch sweeter. A mature jalapeno pepper plant measures 2-3 feet in height and will typically produce around 30-40 jalapeno pepper pods. If you wish you can grow them in your own garden, but make sure to pick them regularly, as the plant will continue to produce.

It is not just me who is such an ardent fan of these wonderful peppers, there are many like me perhaps because of the little kick we get when we take a bite into one. They are delicious no doubt, but the blast of spiciness that you get when it bursts in your mouth and ravishes your tongue is something to vie for. No wonder then that hot peppers are among the greatest flavours in the world.

Whither comes the spiciness
It is a compound called capsaicin that gives that wonderful spiciness that most of us love so much and is found in all hot peppers. An interesting fact is that capsaicin is found only in chilli peppers and not in any other plant. Another interesting fact is that a single drop of this substance mixed with 100,000 parts of water is quite spicy.

Now the question arises what is capsaicin. It is tasteless and odourless and is produced by the glands in the chilli pepper’s placenta, found at the top portion of the pepper below the stem. Here let me add that the placenta is about sixteen times hotter than the rest of the pepper and is usually removed along with the seeds which are the other hot part of the pepper, when preparing food. However if you have a strong stomach that can withstand the spiciness, leave it along with the seeds. And the result, let me assure you, is something that will leave a person with not so strong stomach gasping for breath.

Nutritional information
One pepper has just four calories and no fat, fibre, protein, calcium or sodium. It has very little carbohydrate, vitamin A, vitamin C and iron.

Chilli peppers as a whole are very healthy and should be included in your daily diet. They help fight migraine and sinus headaches. Capsaicin is also known to inhibit a key neuropeptide, which is a key brain pain transmitter.

It also prevents sinusitis and relieves congestion because it clears mucus from your nose, combats nasal congestion. It also contains antibacterial properties that help fight chronic sinus infections.

Peppers also help fight cancer. According to cancer research studies, it drives prostate cancer cells to kill themselves.

Peppers also help lower high blood pressure. Being high in Vitamins A and C, bioflavonoids, they help strengthen blood vessels, make them more elastic and better able to adjust to blood pressure fluctuations. Peppers make us sweat leading too fluid loss, temporarily reducing overall blood volume.

Besides these plus points, peppers help fight inflammation, soothe intestinal diseases, help burn fat and lose weight, protect the heart and keep the feet warm.

Culinary uses
Pickled jalapenos are the most common, easily available and widely used. Have them sprinkled over pizzas irrespective of the topping – be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian, jalapeno peppers add an added kick and make them that much more delicious.

Dunk nachos in cheesy sauce and top up with jalapeno peppers and you will know the real meaning of the word delicious. Add a few slices to Caesar Salad, or pep up any cheesy sauce. Chop some peppers and toss them with scrambled eggs or use them with stuffing of sandwiches or burgers. Add them to stir-fries, soups or stews. Believe me one jalapeno pepper or two will be an absolute value added addition to anything you wish you to add them to.