“Chile heads”—people who can’t get enough hot habañeros in their daily diets—are on a healthier road than the rest of us, according to new medical research. Capsaicin, the heat component in chiles, is an antioxidant and a proven anti-inflammatory just like Aleve and Tylenol. It also kills cancer cells, prevents sinus infections, provides gastric relief like Tums and even oxidizes fat like Ephedra.* While some people may feel pain when eating hot chiles, those who enjoy it will feel less pain, breath easier and burn more calories. Unlike OTC pharmaceuticals, capsaicin has no side effects. It is a myth
that hot chiles cause stomach irritation and ulcers (although they may aggravate existing conditions). The spicier the chile, the stronger its health effects. (See our Chile Glossary for the Scoville Scale of comparative chile heats and a listing almost 40 different chiles.) According to Medill Reports, if you don’t like spicy food, keep trying. The report states that it can take up to 14 exposures to get used to a new food. Try using ground cayenne red pepper, by sprinkling it on popcorn, mixing it with lowfat frozen chocolate yogurt (or regular chocolate yogurt) and adding it to spaghetti sauce. More than 200 placebo-controlled studies, such as the recent study at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on capsaicin’s ability to halt prostate cell replication, are underway. By the way, chile “peppers,” members of the Capsicum family, originated in Mesoamerica and are not botanically related to true pepper, Piper nigrum, the black peppercorn, which originated in India. Chiles were misnamed by none other than Christopher Columbus who, when tasting chiles for the first time in the New World, equated their heat to that of peppercorns and assumed they were related. *Don’t get too excited. Preliminary research suggests that adding a teaspoon of cayenne pepper to each meal can cause the body to burn an extra 15 calories.
When Native Americans and European immigrants hit the trail and needed energy, they carried the original energy bar, pemmican—a mixture of meat, fat and dried fruit.
Now, The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation Company has gone back to its ancestral roots for a healthy, natural alternative to the energy bars now on the market: the Tanka Bar, made with South Dakota bison and Wisconsin cranberries. (If you remember “Dances With Wolves,” tanka means bison in the Lakota language.) The bar is a spinoff of a centuries-old Lakota food called wasna that sustained Great Plains Indians during long trips. Based on traditional wasna and pemmican, it combines high-protein, prairie-fed buffalo and tart-sweet cranberries that is slow-smoked to a jerky-like texture. If you’re a nomad on the go, try it next time you hit the trail. At TankaBar.com.
Not a harmonica—it’s a Banana Guard, to protect your fresh fruit.
Love to bring a banana for a workday snack (or send the kids to school with one), but hate to find it brown and beaten up when you remove it from your bag? Have no fear—Banana Guard is here! The banana protectors are designed to fit most banana sizes and have ventilation holes to allow the banana to ripen at its natural rate. Banana Guard comes in several different colors including a glow-in-the-dark variety—perhaps for spelunkers and theater ushers. It’s $6.99 for a single Banana Guard, $12.99 for a 2-pack and $29.99 for a 5-pack at BananaGuard.com. Let’s hear it for healthier snacks, and the folks who invent ways to carry them.
Just in time for Halloween, McCormick’s has introduced black food coloring. While it’s been easy to make orange from the standard yellow and red food colors, black has always represented a challenge. Now, thanks to spooky food technology, cakes, cupcakes and cookies can be decorated in true Halloween spirit. Check out McCormick.com for a recipe for a black cat cake, purrfect for kids or adults! The food coloring is available nationwide for a suggested retail price of $2.80 for a one ounce bottle. Also new are Italian Tabletop Spices and Traditional Tabletop Spices, single shakers with four sections of different spices.
McCormick’s new Tabletop Spices: at left, Italian spices, at right, Traditional.
The Traditional shaker offers sea salt, black pepper, garlic salt and an Italian seasoning blend. We’re not keen on pre-ground black pepper (piperines, the fiery compounds we love in pepper, start to fade within 20 minutes after grinding). But the Italian shaker, with oregano, sweet basil, garlic powder and crushed red pepper, seems perfect for Pizza Night. If you also like salt and pepper on your pizza, get both and shake away! Each has a suggested retail price of $3.99, at grocery stores nationwide.
Photo of Czechoslovakian hops vines by Dušan Gavenda | IST.
What revelers at next week’s Great American Beer Festival won’t be discussing is the higher prices forthcoming on their brews of choice. While the segment grew 11% the first half of this year, the cost of materials is growing as well. As reported today in the Wall Street Journal, poor harvests, the week dollar and farmers’ shifts to more profitable crops have caused the price of hops and barley to rise—the largest ever faced by the industry. Malting barley, which gives beer its color and sweetness, is less a profitable crop than corn, in demand for biofuels like ethanol. Hops, which provide aroma and bitterness, are commanding higher prices because of poor crops in Europe (hops are also grown in America’s Pacific Northwest). At the same time, the acreage devoted to hops has decreased by half over the past dozen years because of a previous glut of hops.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the cost pressures could slow the expansion of American craft brewers and even put some smaller ones, who have not locked in contracts for hops and malt, out of business. Big brewers face the same cost increases, but they use far fewer hops and barley in most of their beers, which is why they are lighter in taste (and calories). A barrel of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, for example, has about twice the malt and up to five times the hops of a mass-market brew like Budweiser or Miller. As in any industry, large manufacturers have the finances to to secure long-term contracts that protect against rising costs of materials. Now, smaller brewers are trying to do the same, and some are tweaking their recipes to see what they can do without the European hops they’ve always relied on.