Feeling the burn: S.A.'s chefs growing hotter chili peppers

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by Bridget Smith / KENS 5

kens5.com

Posted on May 7, 2012 at 10:16 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 8 at 6:49 PM

If you can't stand the heat, you probably shouldn't eat it.

We're talking about chili peppers -- specifically, a foreign group of them growing right here in San Antonio.

We decided to put some to the test in our hot chili pepper challenge. 

At the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, students are working on something that could really heat things up at local dinner tables.

"Aside from these dried peppers, none of these ingredients are readily available fresh here in the U.S.," said Elizabeth Johnson, a Latin cuisine specialist at the institute, which is also called CIA. 

The institute has teamed up with the Center for Foods of the Americas for the Latin Farming Project. Their focus is to grow fruits used in Peruvian cuisine.

'So these came from a Latin specialty store here in San Antonio," Johnson said, pointing at one group of peppers. "And you can get them throughout Texas or anywhere you have a large Latin population. The problem is that they're frozen."

There is a big difference between the fresh and frozen varieties when you taste them. That's why Johnson said having these fresh ingredients available is important to experiencing the right flavor.

Several seeds from Peruvian ajies are being grown here in San Antonio, including the amarillo, charapita, limo (which comes in a variety of colors), red, yellow, green, white and purple, the panca, mirasol, mocho and serrano.

"Once we get these plants growing, the first order of business is to start to disseminate these to retail nurseries," Johnson said.

Although San Antonio's climate differs from that in Latin America, Johnson said the plants can grow in Texas.
 
"They do well here. The humidity, the heat... They can take all that 'cause that's one of the things they're use to," she said.

That includes the lack of rain. Just like Texas, many parts of Peru can go months without seeing a drop of rain. Along with other factors, the dry climate contributes to the peppers' flavor and heat.

Bridget: So on a scale of 1 to 10, this is probably???

Elizabeth: This could be an 8.

Bridget: This could be an 8?

Elizabeth: An 8 to a 10 depending on where it's from.

The aji limo is said to have a lot of heat and is often used in ceviches.
 
"Because I like you, I'm not going to make you try the aji limo, but maybe next time," Johnson said.

KENS 5's longtime friend Chris Marrou once tried the hottest peppers, but I think I'll pass.

We'll let San Antonians decide for themselves!

 

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