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Jalapeños: Proceed with Caution

August 25, 2011

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Anyone who has ever grown or cooked with jalapeños will tell you: wear gloves. I hadn't done either until this past weekend, when a recipe for Mexican Chicken and Bean Soup called for four seeded and chopped jalapeno peppers.

As I pulled out the seeds and chopped the peppers bare-handed, I didn’t think much of it. After all, I was only chopping them, not eating them whole.

Then, less than an hour later—my hands were on fire! No amount of soap and water would do the trick to quell the burning and swelling. I checked online and was relieved to find that I wasn’t the only one who had ever made this mistake before.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of suggestions, recommending everything from sour cream to white vinegar to rubbing alcohol to mustard to stop the burning. And let me tell you, I tried it all, but to no avail. Just as with any home remedy, the solutions will work for some people, but not for others. (Of course, in serious cases, contacting a health care professional is the best option.)

Time ended up being the best medicine, and by the morning most of the pain was gone. I learned my lesson, and I hope you will learn from this blog! If you are working in the garden or in the kitchen with hot peppers, protect your hands with gloves, or in a pinch, even a plastic bag.

On a happier note, the soup was delicious!

Have you been a victim of “pepper burn”? What did you find was the best remedy? I’d love to hear your stories and solutions.

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Amy, our Associate Editor, joined the The Old Farmer's Almanac in 2009. Amy loves to travel and explore new places (and recipes) around the globe. She enjoys cooking for family and friends, country music concerts, and relaxing in the great outdoors.

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Comments

Hot Hot Hot

By Emily Adamson

Yes, I've had this happen and made the mistake of rubbing my eyes! I soaked my hands in milk which helped a little, but I learned my lesson and always wear gloves now when cutting jalapenos. Your soup recipe sounds delicious, I can't wait to try it!

Hot hands!

By Hilary Rawson

I do A LOT of work and cooking with different peppers, and am not comfortable with gloves. I feel clumsy. I pour some plain cold milk in a bowl, and dip my hands before and during the pepper process! I basically wash my hands constantly with the stuff, and it helps! The only trouble spots are under fingernails. If I'm not careful, I go to rub my eye later and Whao momma! Don't forget to clean under your nails with the milk! It does enough to neutralize the acid until I'm done; then I can wash my hands very well with soap and water. I am also careful to not handle the peppers with all of my hands but carefully try to use my finger tips. Less handling is less acid to worry with.

pepper burn

By Linda Mitchell 3

I had the same experience but with green bell peppers...I had no idea.
Like you nothing I tried to cool the fire worked. I had to just wait it out.

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