NASA Astronauts Grew Green Chile On ISS And Feasted On The Best Space Tacos Yet

nasa chilies experiment
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is trying to spice things up in space. Astronauts have successfully grown hatch chilies aboard the International Space Station (ISS), and were able to feast upon the bounty by making tacos with the fresh chilies.

The growth of the hatch chilies was part of NASA’s “Technical Display of Advanced Plant Habitat’s Capabilities (Plant Habitat-04)" experiment. This is the first time NASA has been able to grow peppers in space. Astronauts have grown other plants such as lettuce and radishes, but peppers proved to be a greater challenge because they simply take longer than some other plants to germinate, grow, and produce fruit. The astronauts began growing the chilies in July and harvested them last week.

The astronauts aboard the ISS were especially excited to taste their homegrown chilies. They made tacos with fajita beef, rehydrated tomatoes and artichokes, and the hatch chilies. NASA astronaut Megan McArthur exclaimed on social media that they were her “best space tacos yet!”

Peppers are a particularly desirable fruit as they are a great source of Vitamin C. The experiment is also intended to provide a proximate analysis (fat, calories, ash, protein), elemental analysis, and evaluation of how much vitamin B1 and K were present in the peppers. Vitamins C, B1, and K will be especially necessary for deep space exploration.

The investigation “[included] microbial analysis to improve understanding of plant-microbe interactions in space” and an attempt to understand the ways that the flavor and texture of the peppers was impacted by their growing environment. It is believed that the spiciness of the pepper could be altered due to the stresses of microgravity. They noted, based on the experiment, that over or under watering appears to be the most significant factor in determining the spiciness or scoville rating of a pepper.

NASA also claims that the study will improve our understanding of growing peppers indoors on Earth. Peppers tend to not be as frequently grown indoors as plants like tomatoes. NASA notes that it will learn more information through this experiment about “adapting a field pepper cultivar to a controlled agriculture environment without genetic manipulation or further breeding.”

Image courtesy of NASA
Tags:  space, NASA, iss