What's in Season: Hot for Chiles

Peppers require a long, hot summer in order to really set their heat, which makes them a great crop to grow in western Colorado. Originally from Mexico, peppers have now made their way into cuisines all over the world. They do present somewhat of a problem for many diners since they come in so many different levels of “hotness.” Capsaicin is the chemical in peppers that makes your mouth burn and irritates your skin. The amount of capsaicin in any given pepper is measured and ranked on the Scoville scale. Named after pharmacist Wilbur Scoville—who wanted a standard measurement—peppers are ranked using Scoville Heat Units (SHU). The bell pepper, for example, falls between 1 and 100 SHU, while the ghost pepper is off the charts at about 1 million! While conventional wisdom seems to contend that the seeds are the hottest part of the pepper, in reality it’s the white flesh that holds the seeds in place. (Thus, if you want to minimize the heat, make sure to scrape all that flesh out.)

We took a trip out to Okagawa Farms to learn more about the many types of chile peppers available to grow and consume. 

Okagawa Farms

281 29 Rd

Grand Junction, CO 81503


Photo credit: Cat Mayer

Photo credit: Cat Mayer

Cafe Sol in downtown Grand Junction is known for its fresh salads and paninis—using locally sourced products—as well as its rotating menu of house-made soups. Owner Nick Santos appreciates the availability of local peppers and shared two recipes with us that can be adapted to a number of different chili peppers. Santos’ Green Gazpacho is for those last dog days of summer when you just don’t think those temperatures are ever going to drop. Once they do fall, however, his Creamy Corn and Chile Pepper soup is just the ticket to warm you right up. (Most mild to medium peppers can be substituted in these recipes, depending on how much heat you desire, although Santos does recommend sticking with sweeter flavored peppers.) cafesolgj.com

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