Hooked On Jalapenos

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Jalapeños were not something I ever saw as a kid growing up in the Midwest. It was a smaller world then and the food choices of decades ago were not the enormous numbers and vast array of variety of food from all over the world simply wasn’t in the stores. There were really no grocery stores with 19 different kinds of lettuces and nobody knew what a micro-green was. There were perhaps two different kinds of lettuce available but the predominant head of lettuce in the stores was iceberg lettuce.

You couldn’t find kale and if you wanted anything other than a beefsteak tomato you had to plant a garden and grow a different variety yourself. 

The 60’s and 70’s were the days of the casserole and instant minced onions. If you wanted to add parmesan cheese to your plate of spaghetti with bolognese sauce, you shook it out of a green can and sprinkled it on top. 

Those not-so-glorious days of food was rife with scalloped potatoes and jello salads. The United States hadn’t quite grown up and wrapped their head around Julia Child and they were still floundering around with canned vegetables, TV dinners and Chicken à la King.

Consequently, eating a jalapeño pepper was a dangerous idea to most people unless you were of foreign descent and had been eating them all of your life. The only peppers you saw were green bell peppers which you put on a sad with tomato or you were making pepper steak. 

But as I grew older and bolder with food choices I learned about tacos, Thai Food and the hot little jalapeño.

What I didn’t know was how healthy these are for you. 

And it’s interesting that their hotness is what makes them so healthy. 

That burn you get when you eat a jalapeño is caused by an ingredient called Capsaicin, pronounced, “Cap-say-ess-en.” And there is a reason for that heat. 

Plants need to defend themselves from insects and other predators so that they can continue to thrive.

As time went on, certain peppers developed that hot taste to ward away insects from boring into them and destroying their seeds by leaving a fungus. Researchers discovered that any area that had more insect infestation where there were peppers growing, the peppers tended to be hotter in taste. This hotness killed the fungus and the plants survived. 

Science suggests that Capsaicinoids which is the heat source of the pepper developed as a way to defend themselves from animals as well. And if the animal tasted that heat, they wanted no part of that plant and learned to stay away from them. 

Over time, humans learned to use these peppers to spice up bland food. But as a by-product, they learned that they tended to get sick less often. Tests have been done on capsaicin and researchers have learned that there are many applications for it including the management of pain as well as certain skin diseases and of course for self defense by developing pepper spray. 

Apparently there is a direct correlation between the hotness of the pepper and the amount of carotenoids and flavonoids they contain. These two chemicals are huge free radical fighters which lowers the risk of cancer in living beings.

The hotter the pepper the better they are for you. 

How hot is hot? Well, it depends on the pepper. Growers have been working on developing hotter and hotter peppers all of the time. And they even have a taste scale on which to grade the hotness of the pepper that is called the “Scoville Scale” which measures the hotness by awarding them heat units. The more heat units are awarded the hotter the pepper is considered. Wilbur Scoville devised this taste scale in 1912 and while it is subjective, it portrays a fairly accurate account of what you are up against when you eat a pepper. And it also will tell you about how healthy they are because that heat indicates that it contains more carotenoids and flavonoids. 

Carotenoids are the pigment that is contained in the food that is an indicator of high Vitamin A content as well as those free-radical fighters.

These carotenoids are found in vegetables that have a deep green or orange color. The carotenoids found in peppers are called lutein and zeaxanthin.

When you eat these dark green, orange and even dark yellow vegetables these carotenoids get converted to Vitamin A which goes a long way in helping protect a living being against not only those free radicals, but they are dead on in helping keep your eyes healthy.

My Mom always told me carrots were good for my eyes and while a lot of things parents told their kids decades ago wasn’t exactly backed by scientific evidence, she was right with the supposition.  But there’s more to this little pepper than just cancer fighting superheroes. They contain a good dose of Vitamin B6 which helps the adrenal system function as well as maintaining the nervous system and keeping it calm and running smoothly. Jalapeños can help stimulate the circulatory system and if you have a cold, it cuts the production of mucus as it is a natural expectorant. They are also an excellent source of Vitamin C with close to 17 milligrams in a small jalapeño. 

I use jalapeños in many of the foods I feed my Greys. They really seem to enjoy that hot flavor and that jalapeño goes into Chop, Grain Bake and many other foods I feed them. I use the whole pepper, seed and all. They’ll even accept the stem of the jalapeño that still has some of the flesh still on it and they eat it like a popsicle firmly holding it by the stem and munching away. 

Jalapeños are just one of dozens and dozens of peppers you can select from to use in food for your birds. You might find many of these hot varieties of peppers in many bright colors that are fresh and in season and this means they might be on sale. By all means, please take advantage of them to enrich your flock’s diet.