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Long, Hot Summer Boosts Flavor in Some Produce

Hot & Cool Food Trends

Those 100-degree days we’ve been “enjoying” in most of the U.S. this summer have taken a terrible toll on many crops—particularly corn and soybeans. But the heat and drought have brought an unexpected plus to some vegetables.

The unrelenting heat that’s broiled us these past weeks has resulted in some of the most potent-tasting produce in years. The lack of rain and heat has caused flavors to be more concentrated in many of the veggies that have been able to survive the weather.

Farmers have discovered that their jalapeño peppers have extra fire, and have noticed a more concentrated flavor in some other crops, as well.

“Peppers really like hot weather,” said Irwin Goldman, a horticulture professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, speaking with Dinesh Ramde of the Associated Press. “When it’s dry and hot outside, you’ll get a higher concentration of alkaloids.” Alkaloids are the substance that binds to heat receptors on the tongue. Other crops affected similarly include onions, garlic, radishes and some fruits.

The lack of rain lowers a fruit or vegetable’s water content. While it won’t be as large or as juicy when harvested, the flavor won’t be as diluted, either.

Hot, dry conditions have caused melons to be especially sweet in some regions, caused by higher rates of photosynthesis, which lead to higher concentrations of fruit sugars.

So, while the Great Heat Wave and Drought of 2012 is having a devastating effect on crops like corn, at least some of the fruits and vegetables that are able to tough it out will have a stronger, more concentrated flavor.

There’s always a silver lining, I guess. But watch out for those jalapeños this summer! They're likely to have more kick than you think.

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