My Hot and Spicy Adventures, or She’s On Fire! by Ivette Soler

Jalapeños, Serranos, Trinidad Scorpion peppers, Chocolate Habañeros, Pequìn, Chiltepin, Negros Chiles De Arbol, and an unknown tree variety are one day's harvest in my Garden Of Spicy Delights

Jalapeños, Serranos, Trinidad Scorpion peppers, Chocolate Habañeros, Pequìn, Chiltepin, Negros Chiles De Arbol, and an unknown tree variety are one day’s harvest in my Garden Of Spicy Delights

I HAVE A HEAT TOOTH!!!

Not a sweet tooth, a HEAT TOOTH!

I love hot peppers.

I have been honing my tolerance for heat for a few years now, and at this point I can take a bite out of a habañero and not pass out or vomit. It hurts, and I have to breathe deeply as my eyes water and my mouth and lips burn, but I can do it, and I have to admit – I love the burn as much as I love the flavor!

I started with the gentle jalapeño. A few years ago, even those little palate ticklers were too much for me. Back then I could barely eat Sriracha. Now, Sriracha is what I use on my fries instead of ketchup. I don’t feel the slightest tingle. But I digress. The jalapeño was my teacher – gentle, but firm. Kind, but strict. Spicy – at first very spicy, but not so much that I would give up. My mouth would burn, but the jolt I got wasn’t so bad that I wouldn’t try again. I added them to everything – chopped them up in my scrambled eggs, slivered them into soups, sliced them onto stir frys, until I the fiery tongue stopped showing up, and I new I needed to up the ante.

Serranos were next. Then the delicious Pequins, my favorite hot sauce peppers. After that, I had to admit that I was a pepper masochist – I was looking for a pepper that could basically hurt me. I had been singed by habañero salsa in the Yucatan, but that was nothing compared to what I had in store. Chiltepin peppers are surprisingly potent for their size, and those took me a long time to master. The entire time I was experimenting with pepper tolerance I was nursing a bottle of habañero salsa I had brought with me from the Yucatan, mixed with vinegar and carrots – I thought it was hot, but once the Chiltepin peppers were behind me I could basically drink that stuff – it was practically a smoothie. It was then I started making my own version of the classic Yucatecan relish of red onion, habañeros, citrus juice, and vinegar, which was so incredibly hot  that the top of my head would fly off every time I put some on a taco. But I kept at it. By the time I tried a Bhut Jolokia, the DREAD GHOST PEPPER, I was such a Macho Pepper Goddess I barely noticed that it was hotter than a habañero. After that, I thought I had all the peppers licked – nothing could kick my heat-loving ass.

BUT THEN …

Up steps  THE CAROLINA REAPER.  Hotter than a Ghost Pepper. Hotter than a Scorpion Pepper. The Carolina Reaper clocks in at 1,400,000 Scoville Units – a Bhut Jolokia has a mere 850,000. To put that into perspective, a Jalapeño measures 2,500 Scoville Units, and Pepper Spray (yes – what the police use) is 2,000,000. So a Carolina Reaper is basically a weapon.

One morning I shaved off a little bit of the pepper for my breakfast scramble – it was HOT – but it didn’t kill me, so I thought what the hell, I’m going to put one entire Carolina Reaper Pepper into a big batch of coleslaw for the BBQ I was headed to.

I will never do anything that hostile ever again. I thought I was spicing things up! The other guests where weeping, moaning, demanding a sign with a skull and crossbones be put in front of the dish to warn anyone who may think it was an innocent slaw that it was NSFE (Not Safe For Eating) I mean, even I, Ivette the Destroyer, Daughter of Kali, could barely eat it! But funny enough, by the end of the meal – the entire dish was gone. People wept, they screamed, they cursed my name – but they went back for more.

Such is the power of heat.

I am currently growing 13 varieties of hot peppers in my garden. I stopped growing tomatoes entirely – not as much fun, and much easier to get at markets than the most exotic of the hot peppers. Next year, if you are so inclined, try and grow something hotter than you are used to eating, and dare yourself to use it in your cooking! You will be surprised at how your palate will open up to the vibrancy of the pepper, and soon you will be picking up nuances and subtle flavors that previously went undetected under all that heat.

Do you have a heat tooth? Are you growing peppers? What are your favorites? What is your favorite recipe to use your peppers in? Come on Ranters, share your Hot Secrets! Your Steamy Recipes!

My Hot and Spicy Adventures, or She’s On Fire! originally appeared on Garden Rant on August 25, 2015.

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