How to handle chiles and what to do when it goes awry

Watch yourself…If you’ve ever accidentally touched your eye after chopping habaneros, you know the pain. Capsaicin, the alkaloid that makes chiles hot, is the same one that’ll make you feel like you’re going blind.  So just avoid the danger in the first place, by wearing gloves when handling chiles – and don’t rub your eyes! When you’re working, or cooking with them, try to keep your face as far away as possible. If you do get a little too close, here are a few ways to alleviate the burning:

  • If you burn your hands, coat them in vegetable oil and rub for about 30 seconds and then wash with a strong detergent and water.  Or you can rub the burning area with isopropyl alcohol and follow with a salve, such as Preparation H.
  • When you burn your mouth or tongue, eat a thick dairy product like cream, sour cream, yogurt, or ice cream and swirl it around in your mouth before swallowing.
  • If you get capsaicin in your eyes flush with eyedrops, keep blinking, flush some more, and wait. It may feel excruciating, but it’ll pass.

For more from The Complete Chile Pepper Book, check previous posts with the Pickled Peppers recipe and How to Pickle

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