Some like it hot: This weather suits peppers
The Associated Press July 24, 2012 10:52PM
Scientists says a pepper's hotness is generally determined by genetics, although hot, dry conditions also play a role. Long hot days cause peppers to produce more capsaicin, the alkaloid that delivers the spicy kick.
Updated: August 26, 2012 6:08AM
Temperatures above 100 degrees and droughtlike conditions have baked parts of the upper Midwest for weeks, taking a severe toll on corn and soybeans.
But the heat brought an expected benefit for peppers and other crops: Their flavors became unusually concentrated, producing some of the most potent-tasting produce in years.
In peppers, that means the difference between a lightly tingling tongue and heavily watery eyes. The effect comes from alkaloids, the substance that binds to heat receptors on the tongue.
“Peppers really like hot weather,” said Irwin Goldman, a horticulture professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “When it’s dry and hot outside, you’ll get a higher concentration of alkaloids.”
The same phenomenon also happens in onions, garlic and certain fruits.
Scientists say a pepper’s hotness is determined by genetics, although environment can play a role.
Long hot days cause peppers to produce more capsaicin, the alkaloid that delivers the spicy kick.
The absence of water also has an effect. The higher a vegetable’s water content, the larger and juicier it is, but the more diluted its flavor.
This kind of weather can also cause melons to be especially sweet, said Jim Nienhuis, who also teaches horticulture at UW-Madison. Cantaloupes originated in the Middle East, and watermelons came from the deserts of Africa, so they’ve been thriving this year.
“Hot, dry conditions result in higher rates of photosynthesis, leading to higher concentrations of fruit sugars,” he said.