Some of humanity's first space-grown chile peppers have been consumed in orbit, taco-style.
NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, one of the seven crewmembers currently living and working at the International Space Station (ISS), created what she called "my best space tacos yet," using some of the newly harvested peppers, some fajita beef and rehydrated tomatoes (as fresh food can only last so long in space.)
The astronauts also got to eat some of the red and green peppers and perform a survey on their taste for future science work, McArthur said in the Oct. 29 Twitter post (opens in new tab). The 48 Hatch peppers are part of a new push by NASA to test out more food ahead of long-term missions to the moon and Mars.
Happily, the harvest is somewhat self-continuing as a few of the peppers produced flowers used to germinate another crop, NASA said in an Oct. 5 update (opens in new tab) of the project. The space station crew hand-pollinated some of the flowers to assist the future harvest, which may take place this month.
"Studies of fruit development in microgravity are limited, and NASA researchers have noted lower fruit development versus ground observations in this experiment for reasons that are not fully understood at this point," the agency said (opens in new tab).
Friday Feasting! After the harvest, we got to taste red and green chile. Then we filled out surveys (got to have the data! 😁). Finally, I made my best space tacos yet: fajita beef, rehydrated tomatoes & artichokes, and HATCH CHILE! https://t.co/pzvS5A6z5u pic.twitter.com/fJ8yLZuhZSOctober 29, 2021
Happy pepper picking day aboard the @Space_Station!🌶️Today @Astro_Sabot gets the honor of harvesting the station’s first crop of chile peppers as a part of the Plant Habitat-04 study, one of the most challenging station plant experiments to date. https://t.co/f1LHkidhFn pic.twitter.com/dim8uHNZbsOctober 29, 2021
The "pepper-picking day" for the first harvest took place on Oct. 29 (opens in new tab), according to the International Space Station Research Twitter feed, presumably a few hours before the taco feast. The crop came from the Planet Habitat-04 study, which is an ongoing series of trying to grow different plants in orbit.
Previous harvests included space-grown Mizuna mustard, radishes, zinnias red lettuce and two other lettuce types. The latest crop of Hatch chile peppers arrived at the ISS June 5 with the SpaceX Dragon CRS-22 commercial resupply mission. NASA announced the peppers were growing in a July 13 statement (opens in new tab).
It was serendipity that the SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts, including McArthur, were still on board when the chile peppers were ready for harvest. Initially they were supposed to return home in late October, before the crops were ready. They're still in space awaiting the weather to improve for the launch of their relief mission, Crew-3.
Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.