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Treebeard's Stumper
10 December 1999

Pyrophagy! (eating fire)

One of my official duties at today's Dunn Middle School El Mercado celebration is to judge the salsa contest. I can take it! I love fiery hot chile peppers. Chile stumpers abound. What was Thai food like before Columbus brought chiles from the New World? What's the best antidote? My chile stumper is a natural history question. Chiles are brightly colored fruit like others that attract animals to eat and pass their seeds for dispersal. But the very hottest part of the chile surrounds the seeds. Doesn't this picante heat defeat the whole purpose of the fruit?

Mild bell peppers after a frost. Vince's winning salsas.
All chile peppers, even these frosted mild bell peppers in a field
near school, turn bright red and yellow colors when ripe to attract
animals and birds to eat them and pass the seeds with a bit of
natural fertilizer. See my Birds and Berries (14 Nov 97) stumper
for more information on endozoic seeds.
Vince won the Dunn Middle School El Mercado salsa contest with
these fine homemade salsas. That's a mild salsa fresca on the left
made with fresh tomatoes and onions, and a tasty tomatillo salsa
verde
on the right. The front bowl is a picante salsa made with hot
habenaro chiles. Vince had a warning sign on this one!

Answer


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Copyright © 1999 by Marc Kummel / mkummel@rain.org