Astronauts on the International Space Station are adding something spicy to their diet —red and green chili peppers.
Hatch chili peppers arrived at the station in June as a part of an experiment initiated by astronaut Shane Kimbrough, NASA said.
Kimbrough, part of the seven-member Expedition 65 crew, previously had experience growing and eating ‘Outredgeous’ red romaine lettuce in 2016.
“It is one of the most complex plant experiments on the station to date because of the long germination and growing times,” Matt Romeyn, principal investigator for PH-04, said in a NASA press release.
A team with Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Research and Technology programs planted the seeds in a science carrier that slots into a plant growth chamber, the Advanced Plant Habitat, on the orbiting laboratory that astronauts raise crops, according to NASA.
However, the astronauts will have to wait before taking bite. The peppers take four months to grow and they will have to harvest them a final time before being eaten.
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The crew is expected to eat some of the peppers and send the rest back to Earth for analysis, if it is indicated that they are safe to eat.
“We have previously tested flowering to increase the chance for a successful harvest because astronauts will have to pollinate the peppers to grow fruit,” Romeyn said.
In late 2015, astronauts grew zinnias on the station, a precursor to flowering crops that take longer to grow like peppers.
Due to microgravity, crews at the station can lose some of their sense of taste and smell and may prefer spicier or seasoned foods, according to Romeyn.
“Growing colorful vegetables in space can have long-term benefits for physical and psychological health,” Romeyn said.
“To successfully send people to Mars and bring them back to Earth, we will not only require the most nutritious foods, but the best tasting ones as well.”
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Follow reporter Asha Gilbert @Coastalasha. Email: [email protected]