Peppers - Seeds, fruit, pith, and flavours -- Gayle Hurmuses
One of the great things about working with Peppermaster is that I get to learn about cooking with peppers. I’ve always wondered about recipes suggesting that I discard the seeds and placenta because they bitter, and hot. So, I asked Greg about this:
Greg: It’s not that the seeds themselves add heat. It’s the placenta that the seeds sit in where the heat is developed and most of the capsaicin is there. It’s hotter close to the top and then becomes less hot as it goes down. The heat on the seeds is mostly oil from the placenta.
Most seeds are not noticeably bitter, they’re just a little bit bitter. It’s just a habit, I think that people have, of cutting it open and removing the seeds, but you really don’t ‘have to.
I’ve tended to remove only the larger ones when they offer a textural component that I don’t want in my food. Some are fairly hard and don’t really offer anything in flavour to compensate.
All the mashes that we make at Peppermaster use all the seeds and the fruit and we puree it up together. Because the lime is acidic, and bitter, it works with the seeds.
When you take a pepper like a Thai bird pepper, they’re very small and thin-walled, and they’re full of seeds, so if you mash all of them and then put them through a strainer, you probably get a greater weight of seeds than you do of fruit.
In those situations, you don’t want that much seed in with the fruit. It would start affecting the flavour. But the bitterness isn’t itself a problem. If you sweeten it, you kill some of the bitterness and there are other ways to balance this component.
In a habanero, you get 20-30 seeds and they’re very light and transparent almost. They don’t add a lot of bitterness to the fruit. Wheras in other peppers, the ratio of fruit to seeds can be way different. With certain peppers, I can see removing the seeds because there’s just too damn many of them. Habanero seeds are not bitter and they really don’t interfere with a recipe.
But, if I’m working with Cherry Peppers, they have large heavier seeds in them. Those seeds I’ve actually collected and roasted in the oven like pumpkin seeds. They crisp up quite nicely and are a nice addition to granola. So they do have uses, I’ve also toasted them with garlic and used them as salad toppers.
When we have something like 50 lbs of peppers going, and separate the seeds, we end up with something like 2.5 lbs of seeds. I’ll take those seeds and rinse them, and add that rinse water to the product that I’m making, just to get the heat from the seeds back into the product without getting the bitterness of the shell of the seeds.
Once I’ve gone to the length of cleaning them, we can toast them in tamari like you do with other seeds, or just toast them plain like popcorn. I was developing a granola topper because they were saying that if you eat spicy foods early in the day it’s thermogenic and helps you lose weight.
If people are doing peppers at home and they’ve brought in about 20lbs of peppers, and take out the seeds, they might end up with a pound and a half of seeds. After drying them, they probably end up with about 6 or 8 ounces, and then they can salt them or season them and use them to sprinkle on foods.
They’re quite tasty, sort of crunchy and nutty. Worth more than tossing out.
Seeds – bitter
Fruit – heat, other round flavours, sometimes sweet.
Placenta/pith – heat, hottest at the top of the pepper and then diminishing as it goes.
Guest blog; Gayle Hurmuses