Spice of Life

Since the recession hit I’ve managed to scratch a bit of a living out of my garden. It isn’t much, really, just a handful of acres and a couple small greenhouses, but it’s enough to grow a crop on. Nothing illegal, mind you, like those folks up north with their little renegade pot farms. Nothing so parochial. Everything here is on the level: soybeans, corn, cherry tomatoes, a little lettuce here and there, and my chili peppers. Every member of my family since my great-grandfather came up from Ecuador has had a green thumb.

I sell a decent amount of the crops at the farmer’s market, enough to recoup expenses with maybe a little extra on the side, but it’s in the chili peppers that the real money lies. They’ve been my families speciality for generations. I can grow you a Jalapeño that’ll have you belching fire for a week, or a nice yellow bell that adds just the right amount of zest to your salad. Restaurants around here pay a decent penny for my family recipe Tabasco sauce or piri piri powder.

But the best thing about chili peppers, the thing everyone seems to forget? Their chemistry makes them easy to weaponize. That burn you feel when you eat one is capsaicin, principle ingredient in pepper spray and tear gas, which in higher doses can be fatal. Don’t worry; you’d have to eat a ridiculous amount of peppers at one time for that happen to you.

So let’s say for the sake of conversation that some enterprising individual figured put how to breed different strains of chili peppers with higher concentrations of capsaicin than usual. And let’s say this person used some old family know-how to mix and combine the powders of those chilis into a lethally toxic spice indistinguishable during an autopsy from a regular food additive.

That clever individual could make a killing in certain specialty markets, don’t you think?

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