NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough works with the Plant Habitat-04 experiment and a set of 48 Hatch chili seeds.
I’ve always been a bit wary of going into space, living in orbit, and having to be away from things I love, like New Mexico green chili peppers. But I can go now. There are chili peppers officially growing on the International Space Station, NASA said in a statement Tuesday.
As a public service announcement, we spell it “chile” with an “e” here in New Mexico. The ISS plants are grown from NuMex’s “Mejorada Española” pepper seeds, a hybrid bell pepper. Hatch refers to a city in southern New Mexico and a region of the state known for its chili peppers.
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This week, NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough added water to the Plant Habitat-04 (PH-04) experiment to put the seeds into orbit after they arrived on a SpaceX cargo ship in June.
Bell peppers are not an instant gratification plant. It will take about four months for the harvest to finish. “It is one of the most complex plant experiments on the station to date due to the long germination and growth times,” said PH-04 principal investigator Matt Romeyn.
Here on Earth, we eat Hatch peppers in different ways. Once the greens are harvested, we roast them over the fire, remove the skin and use them chopped or in sauces or recipes. Leave them on the plant and they turn red. We usually let the reds dry and then sprinkle them for sauces and flavorings.
There is no chili roaster on the ISS, but that won’t stop the peppers from going down the hatch. “The plan is for the crew to eat some of the peppers and send the rest to Earth for analysis, provided that all data indicates that they are safe for the crew to eat,” NASA said.
This is how we deal with green chili in New Mexico. Much fire.
Amanda Kooser / CNET
The astronauts will give their opinion on the texture and taste, while the researchers will also measure how hot the peppers grown in space are compared to a batch grown on Earth.
NASA is looking for ways to supplement astronauts’ diets with fresh food grown in space. Astronauts have already enjoyed some Microgravity salad of lettuce grown in the season..
It is not just nutrition that is important to the inhabitants of space. “We are discovering that growing plants and vegetables with colors and scents helps improve the well-being of astronauts,” said Romeyn.
In New Mexico, we are already tuned in to the emotional and psychological benefits of eating chili peppers. Now we can export our official state question to the ISS: “Red or green?” It’s okay to say “both.”
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