A long and brutal blast of heat and sun might be torture for New Yorkers walking around the city and taking the subway, but it is the perfect weather for turning green peppers bright red and ripe for picking. And it helps bring flavor along with the heat in those spicy chiles like cayenne, serrano, jalapeño and habanero. Cayenne is going gangbusters in the Children’s Garden at Campos, as are the jalapeño, so there are plenty to make a fresh pepper sauce for chicken, fish and any dishes you want to add a layer of heat, without the face-searing fire of the hotter peppers, like habanero.
The benefits of cayenne, and most hot peppers are numerous. Capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers hot, is the stuff of food legend and has been touted and credited with a host of uses and health benefits, from pain relief, to regulating digestion and blood sugar, to preventing cancer of the pancreas, to cooling the body through producing sweat. Gardeners make their own hot pepper sprays to use as an effective pest deterrent, and police use it for riot control. But for true “chile heads,” it’s the pepper’s purported effect on the brain, releasing pleasure-producing endorphins as it inflicts the sting of pain on your tongue that makes hot sauce so special. This may be more than folklore; as some studies have shown, peppers activate pain receptors in our tongue, and that unlike other unpleasant substances, for many people, the capsaicin also flips a switch turning the pain into pleasure.
Here’s a quick cayenne pepper sauce recipe to use with chicken, burgers, eggs, spicy mayo, soups, etc. (Thank you Anandi Premlall for the idea!!)