Thursday, 12 December 2013

`Pimenta nos olhos dos outros é refresco`: Tissue Burns through Brazilian pimenta vegetables

Yesterday, my sweet sister in law gave me a whole basket full of fresh vegetables and fruits. Her husband had been at a friend's farm and came back with a car boot (trunk) full of fresh goodies.

Delicious smells of freshness, amongst others, we got heaps of sweet, mild bananas, passion fruits, green peppers, lettuce, sweet potatoes, mandiocs and other veggies, not to forget green and yellowish-orangy Brazilian pimenta vegetables, which are comparable with chili.

A Brazilian proverb says:
`Pimenta nos olhos dos outros é refresco'.

This proverb has a WHOLE NEW level of cultural understanding for me NOW! (But more to that one later).

So that's where the actual story begins... Today I decided to try cooking with pimenta - the prince of sun believes those pimentas are called pimenta de cheiro. (But he is not totally sure, it might be pimenta malaquita as well...). (*update a few days later on 15/12/2013: my sister in law told me that pimenta de cheiro is not hot and burning at all, it is more for your tastebuds and smells delicious (cheiro is the Portuguese word for smell) - she thinks that the one I prepared is another powerful vegetable-spice called: PIMENTA ARRIBA SAIA! update end)

I have already had many dishes that included pimenta, most people use a bit of it and put a pimenta-oil mix on the table for those who like it more spicy and hot. In general, a few tiny drops are wayyyy enough, I sometimes just sprinkle a little bit in one corner to check my current state of 'spicyness' (haha) and then mix it with the rest and add a few drops more in case I'd like some more. But most of the time, I don't actually mix any pimenta oil into my food.

So I was totally aware of the sheer fire of this vegetable. I handled it reaaally carefully and thought, alright, you'll just put in a few tiny bits and then go from there, tasting and checking along the cooking. I would just start with 1/3 piece of this innocent looking vegetable which actually turned out really nice (with a reaaally slight sensation of tinglyness burning in the food which turned very delicious and could even have had a bit more of the pimenta....

But I was totally unprepared for what was expecting me about 1h after using, washing, cleaning out and cutting ONE SINGLE pimenta vegetable....

Funny enough, I did not feel the slightest sensation when washing and cutting it at first. But about 1h later (I was in the middle of washing up), I felt a crazy sting-like sensation on ONE finger. I thought ---- oooookkkk, did I just miss a bee around here that decided to sting my finger. I carefully examined my finger (the one, that I had just used to tear out the tiny seeds inside the pimenta and then ALSO hold it to cut it), but besides feeling a sensation of total burning inside-out, I did not see a single change in my finger's state (it did get a bit pink later on, but that might be due to myself trying to find a remedy and working what-not into my hands :D).

That left me totally confused. I kind of remembered that I had used pimenta, so I thought, OK, that might be that one and decided to thoroughly wash my hands, then I put some Calendula essence and Arnica lotion (those usually save me from whatever inside-outside pain I am suffering from) onto it. I thought that simply washing the pimenta-rests off my finger would resolve the problem.


About 10 minutes later, my WHOLE LEFT HAND and parts of my right hand were ON FIRE. I kept on washing my hands with coconut soap then switching to putting my hands into the freezer and taking out most ice cubes that were available. They just melted in few seconds. I have really never seen or felt anything like this in my whole life, my hands seemed to be soaking in pure acid. I spent about 30 minutes between washing and freezing my hands, which left BOTH my hands burning like crazy. It always felt like when I was washing and cooling my hands, the sensation went away, but the second my hand dried, the burning went back WORSE! In my attempt of ridding myself of the pain, I had actually DISTRIBUTED THE burning THING!

I had only one option of salvation left:

Haha.... believe it or not, but Google was the only reason I did not go crazy and end up panicked in the next farmacy... I went on searching and came across this blog:

This girl had suffered from a different pimenta burn (a pimenta called dedo de moça (Girl's finger)), but I thought in case it does not help, it cannot get worse, can it?

So, I won t do long talks about what DID NOT help and come straight to the point: Letting my hands soak in virgin olive oil for at least 10 minutes (longest minutes of my life) while trying to resist the overwhelming urge to rinse my hands under cold water and put them back into the freezer, then when 10 minutes were finally up, washing it off and repeating this process twice, then (totally exhausted by the point of enduring the extreme pain and being kind of desperate I have to admit...), lay down and with my hands soaked in olive oil, fell asleep in front of the fan..... AND WOKE UP PAIN-FREE *_*. I have never felt SO HAPPY for feeling normal haha.... (update on 15/12/2013: after cutting about 1kg of those pimenta veggies while making tinned pimentas in a vinegar and salt solution, my sister in law actually needed some of the olive oil as well :D she was excited that it helped so well - she had often been in the situation of suffering from those burns as her husband loves them in and she often forgets to use gloves or has had 'pimenta accidents' even with gloves on (for example unintentionally touching other skin sections such as lips or eyes), so this miracle remedy of one and only good old nature is a truly wonderful find for all of us - me, the innocent and unknowing newbie and the used-to-the-pain-but-still-extremely-annoyed-by-it experts ;) update end)

So, let's get to the hot chemistry, shall we?

The whole pain was caused by the following processes: I discovered that our human tissues have receptors for the molecule CAPSAICIN.  When specific nervous terminals on our skin get in contact with capsaicin, they liberate soda canals causing an electric impulse that connects itself straight with the nervous system. This wonderful molecule is of course (omni-!)present in our dear pimenta vegetables and is responsible for causing this wonderful burning sensation when getting in close contact with it through washing, cutting....

Why did the washing with soap aggravate the pain and why did the olive oil help?

The molecule capsaicin does not dissolve through soap or water, only in pure oils, such as virgin olive oil (which I had at home THANK GOD!). So having the olive oil soaking INTO my hand`s pores (FINGER NAILS included) and literally sucking out the `molecule-poison` kind of saved my sanity :-D

Lesson learned: NEVER again prepare pimenta WITHOUT using at least TWO plastic gloves on each hand ;)

Did I mention a Brazilian proverb? Oh yes, almost forgot about that one:

`Pimenta nos olhos dos outros é refresco'. This is sort of translatable to: Pimenta in the eyes of others is refreshing.

I found a few different contexts and meanings for this proverb, here two of them:

(Childlike) Guys trying to make others do something they would never do themselves as they are dangerous, risky or hurt and

1. being able to laugh watching them suffer: Such as guys telling someone how this `pimenta-oil` is really NOT strong and he should put a table spoon into his food.


2. getting something dangerous but necessary done which they however would never do themselves: Such as your good old hole in the rooftop, which is right at the corner and really dangerous to repair, so they let someone else do it (for shamefully little money).

`Pimenta nos olhos dos outros é refresco'!

A proverb I will never forget. That`s for sure :D

1 comment:

  1. Ouch! Glad to see you got a solution to this problem and you're not in pain any more :)) Berlin Girl