How I burned my fingers with red hot chili peppers

As I mentioned in my previous articles I got actively involved with gardening lately, after losing my job and after being stranded at home due the corona pandemic.

Between the other things I grow in my garden I also got few small red hot chili peppers. We don’t usually eat spicy food, but adding a bit chili in certain sauces and salads can truly lift up the taste of the dish. Therefore I decided to grow some in the pots. They also look amazing as decoration on my black garden table.

I put the plants in a good potting mix and I also added some fertilizer. My plants grew so fast and they are producing tons of small red peppers constantly. Since as I said we don’t like to eat them raw, I had a crazy idea to remove the seeds from them to keep for the next year, cut the peppers into small cubes, and keep the cubes in the freezer. So I could just add some small amount of cubes into my sauces, soups or salads when needed. I found that idea very good, so when I had about 15 peppers to harvest I put my plan into the action.

I never did that before, therefore I didn’t knew that when you cut the red hot chili peppers you need to wear rubber gloves, the simple latex gloves are not able to protect you from burning pepper oil. While I was cutting the peppers I did not feel any burn. The burn started when I finished with cutting and when I washed my hands with water and hand-soap.

The burning sensation after cutting chili peppers comes from oils that coat their skin and they are very hard to dissolve and wash off your hands. Water only spreads the fire so, please don’t wash your hands until you neutralize the capsaicin heat.

Capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) is an active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus Capsicum.  It is an irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact.

Chili oil and capsaicin are more soluble in alcohol than in water, so a good splash of rubbing alcohol or even high-proof alcohol like vodka or rakia slivovitza can help wash it away. But unfortunately I discovered this information too late. I washed my hands with water and hand-soap so, I spread the burning oil allover my palms. Some people are suggesting to rub the hands with olive oil or instead of using hand soap to use dish washing soap to dissolve the capsaicin oil.

The burn I felt allover my palms and fingers was unbearable and very painful. Therefore I tried all the advises I found online. First of all I made a paste of baking soda and a bit of water. I applied the paste on my hands and waited for the paste to make the crust, then I washed away with milk. After that nothing happened, my hands was still burning.

Then I soaked my hands in milk. while my hands were soaked in milk, the burn was bearable, but as soon I was pulling my hands out of milk the burn and pain were extremely strong again.

Then I rubbed my hands with 99% alcohol. Nothing happened. Then I rubbed them with olive oil. Nothing helped. One small progression happened when I rubbed my hands with mom’s home made John’s Wort Oil. I continued to soak my hands in milk and I was repeating all of the treatments again and again until I went to sleep.

The next morning my hands were still burning but not so much as the previous days. Something of all the things I tried helped, but I am not sure what, since I tried several treatments. Today after almost two weeks from the day I was cutting the chili peppers I can still feel some burning on my fingertips (especially on my right hand that I was using more while cutting the peppers).

Therefore I decided to share this experience with all of my readers. Please don’t make the stupid mistake as I did. If you are going to cut chili, jalapeño  or any kind of hot peppers, please put some rubber gloves on in order to avoid the suffering that I had experienced.

I wish this article was helpful. If you have any better and more efficient advice to share with the world besides of all of that I had tried for hot peppers burning relief, please feel free to comment below.

I still have a bunch of new chili peppers to harvest from the pots. I was planning to cut them into slices without removing the seeds and to pickle them. To control the heat level I will add more sugar into pickling liquid. Maybe 3 or 4 tablespoons for 10 peppers, 1 cup of white vinegar, 1 cup of water, 2 cloves of smashed garlic and 1 tablespoon salt. In this way the peppers will remain spicy, but not too spicy. I hope to achieve that nice tangy/sweet flavor at the end. This kind of pickling can preserve the peppers in the fridge for up to two months, without preservatives or artificial colors that the canned peppers from the supermarket contain.

Next time I will wear double rubber gloves for sure while cutting the peppers. In Greece we say : ”το πάθημα έχει γίνει μάθημα”. It means: learning a lesson from your mistakes. I certainly did learn my lesson, and I will never repeated the same mistake again.

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