The Weird and Wonderful World of Chili
November 30, 2006 10:05 PM   Subscribe

What sort of weird and wonderful stuff have people made with chili?

I'm helping a friend who's writing a book about anything to do with chili peppers. Right now we're trying to look for:

a) Medicinal remedies that involve chili (whether old-wives-taleish or more medically sound)
b) Tech innovations with chili
c) Other weird and wonderful uses of chili

So far we have found the use of chili as barnacle prevention, and chili facewash (apparently it's a good anti-acne agent) but nothing much else. She's trying to avoid too many cookbook-style recipes and wants more unusual uses.

My search-Fu is not that strong now.

Thank you so much!
posted by divabat to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Pepper spray?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:07 PM on November 30, 2006

Add it to birdfood and it becomes squirrel repellant, that is unless you have the dreaded Mexican Jumping Squirrel in your backyard.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:10 PM on November 30, 2006

The best chocolate I have ever had was chilli chocolate. Think very bitter dark chocolate with a chilli kick to it. Pure heaven.
posted by cholly at 10:18 PM on November 30, 2006

Chili Facewash sounds like dangerous stuff. Screw up and get it in your eyes, and you'll definitely wish you hadn't.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:30 PM on November 30, 2006

Years ago, my grandma tried a cream for arthritis that used a chemical found in chili peppers - capsaicin. There are more studies on the various medical uses of capsaicin available online.
posted by PY at 10:35 PM on November 30, 2006

The first time I ever saw jalapeño jelly, I was rather surprised. What are you supposed to do, spread it on an English muffin for Sunday breakfast?

So I asked. I was told is that it makes a good glaze for barbecue meats.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:35 PM on November 30, 2006

SCdeB - you spread some cream cheese on a melba toast, then dollup a spoonfull on top. Yum.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:41 PM on November 30, 2006

This abstract from The Journal of Clinical Oncology discusses using capsaicin cream (derived from chili peppers) in relieving pain for cancer patients. More searching of Medline will get you more info on other medical uses of capsaicin.

This abstract suggests that eating peppers may help prevent ulcers.

Italian scientists feed chilis to people with hemorrhoids, conclude they do not make symptoms worse, contrary to popular belief.

The World Food Habits Bibliography may be very helpful-- it's a huge list of books about food all over the world. Looking at the Central American/Mexican/North American lists may yield some good books to look at. You should be able to find some of these books at your nearest university library or your public library might be able to borrow them for you. I've done some research in the history of food and these books will be full of the kinds of anecdotes you seek (some may be a bit embellished, so beware of that).
posted by holyrood at 10:53 PM on November 30, 2006

Wikipedia says capsicum functions as laxative...though I'm not going to test that myself.

I had always heard that most "hot" creams for muscle pains and similar were made from capsicum. Apparently though, methyl salicylate is more common commercially.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:12 PM on November 30, 2006

Chili Beer
posted by jclovebrew at 11:52 PM on November 30, 2006

In some parts of Africa (Zambia in particular is where I'm personally aware of this), hot pepper crops are used as natural elephant deterrents. Searching for "pepper elephant deterrent" will get a lot of results, including this one. New crop, small business, safety from stampeding field and village thrashers, all in one.

And as Kadin2048 pointed out above, you may have more luck in your searches by including "capsicum" in your research.
posted by whatzit at 12:06 AM on December 1, 2006

Traditional western medicine sometimes uses chilli preparations (creams or compresses) to treat slow-healing ulcers in elderly or diabetic patients. The idea is that the chilli (and occaisionally cinnamon is combined for the same properties) stimulates blood flow into an area that has the ulcer (due to reduced circulatory capacity) and permits a faster healing process.

I don't have a link for you but a good book on herbal treatments may assist. Alternatively, if you have more patience than I do, try googling "capsaicin venous ulcer treatment" and sift through the (rather dry) medical literature.

Also, on a completely different tangent, when my parents kept chickens they used to have a problem with rats and goannas stealing eggs. My mother doctored a few sacrificial eggs with cayenne and, lo!, the thieves were deterred. Chickens, apparently, lack capsaicin receptors and don't get the same "burn" we do from it. (Caution: anecdotal only)
posted by ninazer0 at 12:40 AM on December 1, 2006

Also see: Sinus Buster – "The World's 1st Capsaicin Pepper Based Nasal Spray"
posted by randomination at 3:27 AM on December 1, 2006

A sore throat remedy, inherited from my mother, goes something like:

1/2 tsp fresh or powdered ginger
1/4 tsp fresh or powdered chili (hotter = better)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp honey

Stir it up in a mug, top off with boiling water and drink. Not sure if it works, but the mythical properties of this stuff in our household must have at least a significant placebo effect.
posted by methylsalicylate at 5:25 AM on December 1, 2006

Late to the party. All my ideas have been posted already. But I liked the question.
P. S. SCDB - I had that same thought when I came across garlic jelly. But was pleasantly surprised by the answer - garlic toast!
P. P. S. methylsalicylate - I thought you would have provided this answer.

posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 6:12 AM on December 1, 2006

I'm quite a fan of the chili chocolate gelato from the place down the street.
posted by solid-one-love at 7:59 AM on December 1, 2006

The put capsaicin/chili pepper extract into a certain brand of bird seed to keep squirrels away from it. Apparently birds can't taste the stuff, while squirrels react the same way we do to it.
posted by GuyZero at 8:35 AM on December 1, 2006

Holliday Wreaths
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 9:27 AM on December 1, 2006

As a bit of background, peppers evolved with birds as their principal vector for dispersion of seeds. Capsaicin is a defensive measure to discourage mammals from getting a hold of the precious next generatation with sharp and grindy teeth and over-enthusiastic digestive tracts. It triggers pain receptors in mammals, but not in birds.

Of course, it's probably just this characteristic that led humans to domesticate the chili and cultivate it around the globe.
posted by Good Brain at 9:43 AM on December 1, 2006

I don't know if this will be unusual enough for you, but since chili beer was mentioned: I tasted chili wine at a Virginia wine festival. I think it's the cooking wine at the bottom of this page, called "Kiss the Devil".
posted by sa3z at 1:38 PM on December 1, 2006

If your friend hasn't read it already, she might want to look at Chile Death - novel, does include some cookbook type recipes but as I remember there are also more general discussions of chillis.
posted by paduasoy at 2:26 PM on December 1, 2006

From a friend: Chili can also used to replenish iron in women who are on their periods and to clean intestines (not necessarily at the same time). That last bit about cleaning intestines would go along with Kadin2048's laxative finding.
posted by sa3z at 8:10 AM on December 2, 2006

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