Chile Pepper Plants for Health

Stay healthy with hot chiles in your diet.

| July/August 1998

Jalapeño Salsa 

My wife and I eat chiles daily, and our children do too. For us, chile peppers are a part of who we are—I grew up eating them, as did my parents, their parents, and on and on, back through generations. Chiles are part of our Chicano-Nahuatl heritage (remains of chile peppers have been carbon-dated to 7000 b.c. in southeastern Mexico). This heritage has spread throughout the world, so today many cultures know about chiles.

Our family stays pretty healthy because of our chile habit. Chiles are high in vitamins C, E, and A, and their constituents can make you sweat, which is good for cleansing the body of impurities from viruses, chemicals, bad food choices, alcohol, and drugs. They can also clear your sinuses, help your blood flow smoothly through your body, and, because they contain antioxidants, help your body defend itself against serious disease.

Chiles are known botanically as Capsicum, but they’re commonly called peppers or chiles (chilis). They’re also called by their specific name, such as jalapeño, paprika, and cayenne. In fact, there are more than twenty species of Capsicum, and within these species are many varieties and a wide range of tastes, including the mild bell and the hot habanero—indeed, you have many choices when you wish to grow and/or eat chiles.

Most markets have a limited selection of chiles, so my family has chosen to grow our own to suit our needs and tastes.

From the First

Traditionally, people of my heritage begin eating chiles at an early age, and it’s really something—if you can handle it. If you aren’t used to hot peppers, they’ll burn you, so we learn early on not to play with the chile’s fire.

I began gardening as a young boy and the first type of chile I grew was the Hungarian chile (also known as the yellow wax or banana chile). I bought the seedlings at the local nursery. It made me feel good to think that I could grow all the chiles that my mother would ever need. We lived in California, where the climate is mild, so we grew chiles year-round without losing any to freezing temperatures. We harvested three large crops a year, but the first picking provided the hottest peppers.

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