Saturday’s the Summer Solstice: Five signs we’ve reached (another) Houston summer

Saturday’s the official beginning of summer! The day with the most sunlight (in the northern hemisphere), we’re now in the time of short shorts, trips to the beach, ice cream and vacations (and our Mixers & Elixirs Summer Solstice Party).

But summer in Houston is unique. We certainly know how to have a good time, but the weather doesn’t always make that easy. Here are five signs that we’ve reached summer in Houston:

YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE SWIMMING (WITHOUT THE REFRESHING PART)

The humidity in Houston is nothing to scoff at. Seriously. Stepping outside now feels like stepping into a hot mouth — or like you’re swimming, except you’re overheating.


AIR CONDITIONING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE

Seriously, try and stay cool folks. Heat stroke is a real problem for Houstonians, especially for those on the younger or older ends of the age spectrum from June until August. Here are some helpful tips to keep cool.

YOUR ELECTRIC BILL HAS DOUBLED IN THE LAST MONTH

Again, AIR CONDITIONING = LIFE. However, this means your electric bill will almost certainly be the highest it’s been all year, especially if you’re using window units. Here are a few ways to be more efficient and lessen the impact

FORGETTING YOUR SUNGLASSES IS THE WORST THING THAT CAN HAPPEN

We’re no strangers to sunlight, but it just. gets. so. intense. Keep an extra pair in your car (you’ll be glad that first time you forget). Besides being able to see on the road, you’ll want them on whenever you’re outside to help fight against skin cancer, cataracts and macular degeneration

SLEEVES AND PANTS ARE NOW THE ENEMY

It’s just too hot to wear any more clothing than you need to remain decent in public. Besides, sweating is your natural way to keep cool. Don’t let fabric get in between you and comfort.

Now for some sweet relief: you can always come visit us and enjoy our cool exhibits away from the summer sun! So what are you waiting for?! 

And of course, you can beat the heat with Mixers & Elixirs this Saturday, June 21 at our Summer Solstice Party. Because when the Houston heat and HMNS coolness come together, things are bound to get steamy — the good kind.

Spicy Science: Plant Evolution [Big Bite Nite]

This year, Big Bite Nite is turning up the heat! Many of our participating restaurants are spicing things up with dishes served diablo, and so we’ve been thinking a lot about spice.

Like – where does spice come from?

Radishes are spicy?
You may be surprised at the range
of plants that have spice in them!

Essentially – it comes from plants. Spice is all natural! And Smithsonian Magazine recently published a fascinating article about the evolution of spice in plant populations. To quote the article:

“The heat-generating compound in chilies, capsaicin, has long been known to affect taste buds, nerve cells and nasal membranes (it puts the sting in pepper spray). But its function in wild chili plants has been mysterious.”

In other words, despite the fact that humans enjoy  super-spicy salsa, fiery Indian vindaloo or eye-watering wasabi – and that we’ve been “spicing up…food with chilies for at least 8,000 years” – there doesn’t seem to be an immediately obvious reason for plants to develop this characteristic.

So, as often happens when science meets an unanswered question, studies were undertaken. And as it turns out: “the more capsaicin, the less fungal infection.” And since fungus thrives in humid environments,  “the moister the climate, the spicier the chilies.” This is why hot chilies typically come from hot regions of the world.

Fascinating! And – we wanted to know more. So, we met up with Nancy, a botanist in addition to being our curator of entomology, Director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center, and blogger for BEYONDbones to explore the science behind the spice. Check it out in the video below!

Can’t see the movie? Click here to view it.

In the meantime, here are some other fascinating tidbits from the article:

  • Chilies aren’t really hot – capsaicin stimulates neural receptors in your tongue and skin that detect rising temperatures.
  • We really like spice – and chilies spread around the world with great speed. “Within 50 years of Columbus’ voyages, Pernambuco chilies were being cultivated in India, Japan and China. Chilies made it to the American Colonies with the English in 1621.”
  • Traces of chilies have been found “on ancient milling stones and cooking pots from the Bahamas to southern Peru.”

Check out the full Smithsonian article here. And, check out what’s happening for Big Bite Nite on April 29 – and enter to win tickets to the event, as well as check out the other videos in our spicy video series – at the event web site.