Recently, I wrote about ‘Sangria’ edible ornamental peppers, a small container hybrid with the mouth-burning capsaicin bred out, leaving tasty sweet flesh. Well, it wasn’t a singular idea, and now I’ve found ‘Fooled You’ hybrid Jalapeno peppers (damseeds.com), full of that variety’s characteristic flavour, minus the heat.
Tissue-burning capsaicinoid compounds are produced by fruits of chili peppers, probably to deter herbivores and prevent fungi infections. The capsaicin content of peppers is measured on a scale of Scoville units, from sweet bell peppers (0 to 100 Scoville units), to Jalapeno peppers (3,000 to 6,000 Scoville units), and upwards to Habanero and Scotch bonnet peppers (300,000 Scoville units). The Naga Jolokia pepper is grown in India, and measures 1,000,000+ on the Scoville scale, but few diners have recovered sufficiently to tell the tale of its flavour.
Plant scientists have taken up the interesting concept of breeding out unfavourable characteristics from fruits and vegetables, and breeding in desirable and nutritious features. Orange carrots have always been nourishing vegetables, but now are bred with additional pigments, containing a broader spectrum of phyto-chemicals that promote good health. ‘Atomic Red’ and ‘Cosmic Purple’ carrots (mcfayden.com) have vividly coloured surface pigments that seep into the inner orange flesh and don’t fade with cooking. The red and purple colours are anthocyanin antioxidants, a group of flavonoids associated with cancer prevention. ‘Nutri-Red’ carrot has the added red pigment, as well as additional lycopene, a precursor to beta-carotene, another cancer-fighting element. Carrots have never been so good!
And while we’re at it, why not mention ‘Jade II’ bush beans (stokeseeds.com) with darkest green colour, resulting from extra chlorophyll, another flavonoid pigment that chases after free radicals in body tissues. ‘Jade II’ beans are disease resistant, tender and prolific, and continue cropping over a long period.
Yellow pigment seems to be turning up in cutting-edge tomatoes. If you’re a fussy eater, the majority of early fruits are seedless on ‘Gold Nugget’ cherry tomato vines (johnnyseeds.com). And to satisfy your sweet craving, ‘Golden Honeybunch’ cherry tomatoes (stokeseeds.com) have a tooth-tingling 10% Brix sugar measurement, surely enough to qualify as dessert.
Other posts by Judith this week: