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It's Salsa Time!
by John Harmon
August 31, 2003

The cold frosty mornings have wrecked havoc on the outdoor plants but surprisingly the frost tolerant stuff like Swiss chard and Beets are still hanging in there. Another surprise is that Bok Choi is just as frost tolerant as the Swiss Chard and still doing well. At least the chore of mowing the lawn is over for the year!

Your hot peppers should be turning red or whatever color they are supposed to be by now along with any tomatoes you have. That means it's time to salsa and I don't mean the dance. The most important part of salsa fresh or cooked is the hot peppers. Without them salsa is pretty bland. Many folks worry about what all those hot peppers might do once ingested. Don't worry, they are very good for you!

It used to be a common misconception that hot peppers and other spicy foods could cause stomach problems like ulcers. Now we know that isn’t true. In fact in a study conducted at a Veterans Administration hospital in the U.S., researchers ground up about an ounce of Jalapeno pepper and injected it directly into the stomachs of volunteers. Follow-up observation showed no damage to their stomach linings. Nor do hot peppers aggravate or cause hemorrhoids, as has often been claimed, since capsaicinoids, (the hot in hot peppers), are broken down before they reach the lower intestines.

Some benefits of the active ingredient of hot peppers, capsaicin,, is that it’s been found to work as an anticoagulant, thus possibly helping prevent heart attacks or strokes caused by a blood clot. Small amounts of capsaicin can produce numbing of the skin and have a slight anti-inflammatory effect. In some countries, peppers are used in salves.

Peppers, both hot and sweet, are high in vitamin C, which, in turn, may be effective in protecting against cancer. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, a chemical substance capable of removing the threat from free radicals, which can cause cells to mutate. For instance by weight, green bell peppers have twice as much vitamin C as citrus fruit. Red peppers have three times as much. Hot peppers contain even more vitamin C, 357 percent more than an orange. Red peppers are also a good source of beta-carotene.

Along with the peppers it's nice to have a big batch of ripe tomatoes to use as a base. There are benefits inherent in tomatoes too. If you’ve been paying any attention to recent news in health magazines and on TV all the talk is about the health benefits of tomatoes and tomato based products is growing. The so-called “Mediterranean diet” helps protect you from everything from heart disease to cancer. The reason is lycopene. Lycopene is found in a number of foods but the best source is tomatoes.

I wrote about some of the research being done on lycopene a couple of years ago when they discovered that lycopene could reduce LDL, the "bad" cholesterol in blood, which can lead to heart attacks. A more recent study suggests that it can also reduce the risk of many cancers. The study published in the International Journal of Cancer said “lycopene appears to protect against cancer of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, colon and rectum”. Researchers at the University of Illinois report that women with the highest lycopene levels had a five-fold lower risk of developing pre-cancerous signs of cervical cancer than women with the lowest lycopene levels.

This is of course great news if you love tomatoes like I do and you get all the benefits of tomatoes and peppers in a batch of salsa. It doesn't matter if you eat your salsa fresh or cooked it's going to be good for your health. Even if your tomatoes don't turn red you can still make salsa with the green ones and get most of the advantages of both tomatoes and peppers.

For some great recipes for salsa check out http://www.recipesource.com/side-dishes/salsas/. They list over 380 various recipes including fruit salsas and some made entirely with just peppers. Whatever recipe you choose it's time to get busy and Salsa!

 

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