Astronauts Dine on 'Best Space Tacos Yet!'

Friday's meal featured ISS' first space-grown Hatch chiles
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 2, 2021 8:47 AM CDT
Astronauts Dine on First Space-Grown Chiles
Some of the space-grown chile peppers.   (NASA via Megan McArthur)

NASA astronauts dined Friday on tacos with a star ingredient: some of the first chile peppers grown from seed to maturity in space. Astronaut Megan McArthur tweeted a photo of "my best space tacos yet" consisting of fajita beef, rehydrated tomatoes and artichokes and fresh Hatch chile peppers, which have been growing in the International Space Station's Advanced Plant Habitat since July—part of an effort to learn the ins and outs of growing food crops in space. As the peppers are self-pollinating, ground control activated "fans at variable rates to create a gentle breeze in microgravity to agitate the flowers and encourage the transfer of pollen," according to an Oct. 5 release.

Astronauts also helped distribute pollen by inserting a fingertip into the blooms. And "of course I played Red Hot Chili Peppers for them!" McArthur noted. She and the other six ISS crew members were rewarded Friday as NASA astronaut Mark T. Vande Hei harvested several red and green peppers, which have a mild heat and were then eaten in the name of science. NASA was looking for "crew feedback on flavor and texture of the peppers, along with Scoville measurements to assess the heat," which is determined by environmental growing conditions, according to a July release. "Got to have the data!" McArthur tweeted alongside photos of her scrumptious-looking tacos.

Astronauts have also grown zinnias, mustard, dwarf wheat, radish, lettuce, kale, and cabbage in space. NASA touted the experiment with Hatch peppers, which are dense in Vitamin C and other nutrients, as "one of the most complex to date on station because of the long germination and growing times," per CNET. But "NASA researchers have noted lower fruit development versus ground observations in this experiment for reasons that are not fully understood at this point," according to the October release. The remaining peppers will be sent to Earth for analysis, NASA notes. (Read more NASA stories.)

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