With summer in full swing, chili peppers have become a staple of summertime dishes, whether they’re eaten raw, stuffed, or as part of salsas, dips and seasonings. Now, market-goers can get their share of pesticide-free, locally-grown spice from the Hermiston Melon Company, which sells a wide variety of chili peppers.

Farmer Rachelle Walchli attributes her company’s success with chili peppers to her eastern Oregon farm, which stays hot and dry for most of the summer.

“We’re desert where we come from,” Walchli said.

The Hermiston Melon Company grows poblano, jalapeño, and even ghost peppers.

“We raise ghost peppers,” she said. “The world’s hottest peppers.”

Famed for the intensity of their spice (which is more than 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce), ghost peppers are used in salsa, pepper spray and even as a wild animal repellent in some countries, where the paste is smeared on outer farm fences.

All varieties of peppers have health benefits. In addition to having plenty of vitamins A, C and B6, MSNBC reported recently that peppers actually help cool the body in the hot summer months, presumably by increasing perspiration. Capsaicin, the component of all peppers that causes their distinct spicy flavor, is also thought to help clear sinuses during a cold.

The amount of spice in each variety of pepper is crucial in shopping for chilies. For instance, ghost peppers are spicier than jalapeños, which are spicier than poblano peppers. Extremely hot chilies should be used only as seasoning, while milder peppers can be stuffed. One popular dish, chili relleno, is made by stuffing poblano chilies with cheese, coating them in batter, and frying them.

The possibilities don’t end there. Our Little Farm and Nursery, which sells peppers and chili plants, will be roasting peppers at the Orenco markets during August. Many chilies can be made into salsa and sauces as a spicy, tangy dip.

The Hermiston Melon Company will be selling at the downtown Hillsboro Saturday markets, and Our Little Farm and Nursery will be at the Orenco Sunday markets for the remainder of the season.

Anisha Datta is communications assistant for the Hillsboro

Farmers’ Market.

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