You can’t live in Albuquerque, or any part of New Mexico without coming across the apparently ubiquitous green chile. This pepper can be quite spicy, but in general is one of the milder paper plants that I’ve come across. Because of the limited assault on the tongue, this spicy pepper has some subtle, almost sweet, counter notes that are apparently addictive. The most famous growing region for these chilis is around the Hatch area of New Mexico.

That said, this gringo had to learn (as apparently does anyone not familiar with spicy peppers) not to touch my face after chopping chilis. There is something about the oils that get everywhere and have a persistence of presence that is downright undeniable. Especially if they get anywhere near a mucous membrane, or eyes.

Well it’s been decades since I’ve lived in New Mexico – and up until recently it’s been that long since I’ve been around any quantity of fresh chili peppers. I’ve grown a few Anaheim and JalapeƱo in the new Growing Love Community Garden over the past two seasons, but never had this problem. This year I’m getting a bumper crop of Portugal Hots (I bought the plants at Bayles Garden Supply). They are not as fleshy as Anaheims but quite spicy

Today is Friday so, for reasons beyond explaining here and now, I chopped a couple of peppers and sprinkled them on a Newman’s Frozen pizza before putting it in the oven. While this sounds so simple – all I needed to do is wash my hands real well at that time, it turned out to be a most painful mistake. Put the pizza in the oven and wash my hands, all I had to do.
No – couldn’t bother to do that.

So it was about 30 minutes later, I had finished all but the last slice of the pizza, when I first experienced the tinge of discomfort. It seems I had wiped the sweat from my brow and in that process had deposited a broad swath of capsicum heat. And that sweat was still in production. I didn’t realize what was happening at first. It was that tingling feeling, and of course I wiped at it and then the feeling got stronger – and that’s when I realized what I had done. By this time sweat had carried heat to my eyes and I’m in the head flushing my face with soap and cold water.

There are still cells on my face that are inflamed, I’m sure – but all in all I survived with that lesson once again fully reinforced.

Wash your hands after chopping Chili!