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Hot peppers aren't just for the birds

The only thing hotter than the temperature during the Fourth of July was the red-hot pepper I sampled. But since hot peppers have never really agreed with me, I only nibbled.

I don't understand why some people are so attracted to the mouth-burning sensation of hot peppers, either. After all, even animals know better than to eat them.

As a matter of fact, hot peppers are so offensive to most mammals, many store-bought, animal-pest repellents incorporate hot peppers within their mixtures.

Incidentally, the seeds and pulp of hot peppers can be added by gardeners to wild bird food mixes. The hot peppers stop the four-legged raiders of bird feeders from eating the food, yet the hot peppers won't harm the birds or discourage them from feeding.

Hot peppers have roots

Even though most mammals find the side effects of ingesting hot peppers unpleasant, people have been happily eating them for centuries. In fact, folks from Central and South America — where peppers are native — have been eating hot peppers for nearly 10,000 years.

By the way, after Columbus discovered hot peppers being eaten in the Americas, they soon became a cost-effective substitute in Europe for black peppercorns being imported from India that were so expensive, the peppercorns were being used as currency.

Capsaicainoids are what give hot peppers their zest, and hot peppers contain copious amounts of them. To maximize the hotness of hot peppers, though, they should be grown in full sun and in fertile soil that drains freely.

Hot peppers can be started from plants or seeds. But since they require a long growing season, if they haven't been started from seeds already, purchase potted plants and transplant them.

Be careful, however, because some of the newer varieties are so hot, they actually hurt.

Which reminds me: Tanzanian farmers of Africa are presently using repellents made from hot peppers to protect their crops from grazing elephants. After one bite, the peppers cause the elephants to run for the nearest watering hole — not unlike me, after I recently bit off a little more than I could comfortably chew on the Fourth of July.

This week in the garden

Prolonged periods of scotching temperatures are stressful to many types of plants — and it's "never" good to fertilize plants under stress.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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