From the Farmer

Week 16 – 8/30/2016
Here we are, September.  Three mentions this week:

Fall Potluck, Sunday, September 18th 4-7 pm.  Tours, activities and socializing at the farm.  Come learn about bees, bats, gourd crafting and butterflies.  See how we use chickens in our fertility program.  Meet a Camilla or a Millhouse.  Please let us know if you’ll be there! RSVP to farm@willowsfordfarm.com

Survey.  If you haven’t taken our mid-season survey, please do.  We want to hear from you!  10 short questions – who knew Mike could keep it so short? Take the Mid-Season CSA Survey.

September Volunteer Hours and Tour.  Sunday, September 4th.  Register for both here: Vol. Hours / Tour.             
Capsaicin Consternation
For a long time, I was afraid of jalapenos, due in large part to a pair of unhappy memories (green marbles, for those of you who’ve seen Inside Out) of a jalapeno popper at Chili’s, or Applebee’s, or Anywheres, a limp, green, over-breaded No-Thank-You-Bite with heat but no flavor, and an oily anchovy of a bite on an iceberg lettuce (sorry, two-week old iceberg has a place but once you go butterhead you don’t go back.  No, actually, two-week old lettuce of any kind has no place.  Just say no) “salad” at Olive Garden (many yellow marbles there, but food marbles often now tinted green).  Turns out they’re pretty good, and maybe more important they are versatile.  Jalapenos only rate a 2,500-5,000 on the Scoville Scale, so don’t be afraid.  There are somewhat hot varieties of Jalapenos and then there are a lot of mild varieties out there, let’s give thanks to Texas A&M for breeding a hot pepper equivalent to white bread.  Five thousand Scoville Heat Units, SHU, compares to a sweet pepper (0 on the Scoville Scale), a Pimento (100-500), an Ancho or Poblano (1,000-2,000), a Hungarian Hot Wax pepper (one of Mike’s favorites for flavor, 5,000-10,000), and Serrano (6,000-23,000, we’ve largely stopped growing these because, because why?).  That’s also compared to some of the hotties we really like here and that need to make it in one or more meals a day (sometimes that’s breakfast cereal.  Try it with your Cap’n Crunch): Cayenne (30-50,000), Scotch Bonnet and close brother Habanero (100,000-350,000), and Bhut jolokia, also known as Ghost Pepper and making its first appearance at Willowsford Farm (scored a 1,041,427 Scoville Heat Units in one analysis, though India’s Defense Research Lab only reported 855,000 SHUs, clearly a PsyOps program run through the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence).  Pure capsaicin, which is now an ingredient in pain relief products, rates 16,000,000 on the Scoville Scale, and police grade pepper spray 5,300,000, a good 3,000,000-plus hotter than common pepper spray which is all we ordinary citizens can buy.
 
You’ll note a range of hotness on each pepper.  That’s because growing conditions make a big difference in how hot a fruit will be.  A pepper stressed by drought or insect tends to be hotter.  Generally, we like to give a plant a good start with water and balanced soil fertility, then cut back when the thing starts to flower and fruit.  Our yields often go down from their yield potential, but flavor (which is made up of all the compounds a plant makes as it lives and responds to earth conditions like soil, water, and temperature, and Universe conditions like light and cosmic rays) gets better and in the case of peppers, spiciness increases, capsaicin being one of those flavonoids.  
 
Look, I know you might be living in a haze of pre-foodie experience, a “Not My Style” response to hot peppers and especially to Jalapenos, but they really do make the Earth move.  Jalapenos are an interesting pepper because they offer noticeable kick while being fleshy, and a good vehicle for a pepper’s nutritional value (very high, more vitamin C than an orange).  They’re also a good training pepper.  Want to whip your kids into Spice Shape but need a place to start?  Jalapeno’s your pepper.  There are a lot of gateway recipes out there:
  • Jalapeno poppers (mmm, fried…)
  • Pepper jelly
  • Jalapeno corn bread
  • Jalapeno margarita (invite me over)
  • Jalapeno pepper chicken
  • Baked stuffed jalapenos
You’ll notice some recipes just include jalapenos in them and some are centered around them.  Try and enjoy as you prefer.  A reminder about hot peppers, the hottest heat is found in placenta around the seeds (though of course a hot pepper is going to be hot pretty much anywhere, and the Bhut jolokia is unusual in its habit of producing capsaicin throughout the fruit).  Be careful when handling hot peppers, wear gloves if you’re sensitive, and don’t go rubbing your eyes or other sensitive membranes!  The spicy can last on your hands for quite a while.  The more you cut one up the more you’ll be exposed to it.  You can remove the seeds and placenta, and you can also take a whole pepper and slice or lightly crush it, then add it to whatever sauce or dish you’re making.  Then, after cooking, remove the whole pepper.  Some of the pepper flavor and heat will infuse the dish, without having to bite into it later.
 
Be great,
 
Mike, Deb, Al, Lex, Jennifer, Anya, James, Christy, Valeria, Kay, Sonya, Julia and Kelly, Bella, Radish, Goats x 12, Camilla x 452, dinner chicks x 999 in the freezer, Roscoe RIP and Popcorn, last seen backstage in a Holstein-print robe waiting for his Fifty Shades of Chicken co-star Dakota Griffith.  
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