Herb and Spice of the Week – Chili Pepper

August 7, 2014 at 5:51 AM | Posted in spices and herbs | 2 Comments
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Cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper

The chili pepper (also chile pepper or chilli pepper, from Nahuatl chīlli of plants from the genus Capsicum, members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. In Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Malaysia and other Asian countries, the word “pepper” is usually omitted.

The substances that give chili peppers their intensity when ingested or applied topically are capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) and several related chemicals, collectively called capsaicinoids.

Chili peppers originated in the Americas. After the Columbian Exchange, many cultivars of chili pepper spread across the world, used in both food and medicine. Chilies were brought to Asia by Portuguese navigators during the 16th century.

India is the world’s largest producer, consumer and exporter of chili peppers. Guntur in Andhra Pradesh produces 30% of all the chilies produced in India, and the state of Andhra Pradesh as a whole contributes 75% of India’s chili exports.

 

Thai pepper, similar in variety to the African birdseye, exhibits considerable strength for its size

Thai pepper, similar in variety to the African birdseye, exhibits considerable strength for its size

Species and cultivars

The five domesticated species of chili peppers are as follows:

* Capsicum annuum, which includes many common varieties such as bell peppers, wax, cayenne, jalapeños, and the chiltepin
* Capsicum frutescens, which includes malagueta, tabasco and Thai peppers, piri piri, and Malawian Kambuzi
* Capsicum chinense, which includes the hottest peppers such as the naga, habanero, Datil and Scotch bonnet
* Capsicum pubescens, which includes the South American rocoto peppers
* Capsicum baccatum, which includes the South American aji peppers

 

The habanero pepper is known for its unique combination of intense flavor, aroma and heat

The habanero pepper is known for its unique combination of intense flavor, aroma and heat

Though there are only a few commonly used species, there are many cultivars and methods of preparing chili peppers that have different names for culinary use. Green and red bell peppers, for example, are the same cultivar of C. annuum, immature peppers being green. In the same species are the jalapeño, the poblano (which when dried is referred to as ancho), New Mexico (which is also known as chile colorado), Anaheim, serrano, and other cultivars.

Peppers are commonly broken down into three groupings: bell peppers, sweet peppers, and hot peppers. Most popular pepper varieties are seen as falling into one of these categories or as a cross between them.
The substances that give chili peppers their intensity when ingested or applied topically are capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) and several related chemicals, collectively called capsaicinoids. Capsaicin is also the primary component in pepper spray, a less-than-lethal weapon.

When consumed, capsaicinoids bind with pain receptors in the mouth and throat that are responsible for sensing heat. Once activated by the capsaicinoids, these receptors send a message to the brain that the person has consumed something hot. The brain responds to the burning sensation by raising the heart rate, increasing perspiration and release of endorphins. A 2008 study reports that capsaicin alters how the body’s cells use energy produced by hydrolysis of ATP. In the normal hydrolysis the SERCA protein uses this energy to move calcium ions into the sarcoplasmic reticulum. When capsaicin is present, it alters the conformation of the SERCA, and thus reduces the ion movement; as a result the ATP energy (which would have been used to pump the ions) is instead released as thermal energy.
The “heat” of chili peppers was historically measured in Scoville heat units (SHU), which is a measure of the dilution of an amount of chili extract added to sugar syrup before its heat becomes undetectable to a panel of tasters; the more it has to be diluted to be undetectable, the more powerful the variety and therefore the higher the rating. The modern commonplace method for quantitative analysis of SHU rating uses high-performance liquid chromatography to directly measure the capsaicinoid content of a chili pepper variety. Pure capsaicin is a hydrophobic, colorless, odorless, and crystalline-to-waxy solid at room temperature, and measures 16,000,000 SHU.

 
Chili pepper pods, which are berries, are used fresh or dried. Chilies are dried to preserve them for long periods of time, which may also be done by pickling.

 

Dried chilies are often ground into powders, although many Mexican dishes including variations on chiles rellenos use the entire chili. Dried whole chilis may be reconstituted before grinding to a paste. The chipotle is the smoked, dried, ripe jalapeño.

 

Many fresh chilies such as poblano have a tough outer skin that does not break down on cooking. Chilis are sometimes used whole or in large slices, by roasting, or other means of blistering or charring the skin, so as not to entirely cook the flesh beneath. When cooled, the skins will usually slip off easily.

Green and Red Chillies are used extensively in many parts of Indian cuisine

Green and Red Chillies are used extensively in many parts of Indian cuisine

Chilly as sold in daily market in India
The leaves of every species of Capsicum are edible. Though almost all other Solanaceous crops have toxins in their leaves, chile peppers do not. The leaves, which are mildly bitter and nowhere near as hot as the fruit, are cooked as greens in Filipino cuisine, where they are called dahon ng sili (literally “chili leaves”). They are used in the chicken soup, tinola. In Korean cuisine, the leaves may be used in kimchi. In Japanese cuisine, the leaves are cooked as greens, and also cooked in tsukudani style for preservation.

 

Chili is by far the most important fruit in Bhutan. Local markets are never without chili, always teemed with different colors and sizes, in fresh and dried form. Bhutanese call this crop ema (in Dzongkha) or solo (in Sharchop). Chili is a staple fruit in Bhutan; the ema datsi recipe is entirely made of chili mixed with local cheese. Chili is also an important ingredient in almost all curries and food recipes in the country.

 

Green and Red Chillies are used extensively in many parts of Indian cuisine

 
Sun-dried Red Chillies for a staple part of Telugu cuisinein India
In India, most households always keep a stack of fresh hot green chilis at hand, and use them to flavor most curries and dry dishes. It is typically lightly fried with oil in the initial stages of preparation of the dish. Some states in India, such as Rajasthan, make entire dishes only by using spices and chilies.

 

Chilies are present in many cuisines. Some notable dishes other than the ones mentioned elsewhere in this article include:
* Paprikash from Hungary uses significant amounts of mild, ground, dried chilies, aka paprika, in a braised chicken dish.
* Paprykarz szczeciński is a Polish fish paste with rice, onion, tomato concentrate, vegetable oil, chili pepper powder and other spices.
* Chiles en nogada from the Puebla region of Mexico uses fresh mild chilies stuffed with meat and covered with a creamy nut-thickened sauce.
* Mole poblano from the city of Puebla in Mexico uses several varieties of dried chilies, nuts, spices, and fruits to produce a thick, dark sauce for poultry or other meats.
* Arrabbiata sauce from Italy is a tomato-based sauce for pasta always including dried hot chilies as well as, Puttanesca sauce which is tomato based with olives, capers, anchovy and, sometimes, chilies.
* ‘Nduja a more typical example of Italian spicy speciality, from the region of Calabria. A soft, pork sausage made ‘hot’ by the addition of the locally grown variety of jalapeño chili.
* Kung Pao chicken (also spelled Gong Bao) from the Sichuan region of China uses small hot dried chilis briefly fried in oil to add spice to the oil then used for frying.
* Som Tam a Green Papaya Salad from Thai/ Lao cuisine traditionally has, as a key ingredient, a fistful of chopped fresh hot Thai chili, pounded in a mortar.
* Nam phrik is a traditional Thai sauce prepared with chopped fresh or dry chilies in fish sauce and lime juice.
* Sambal Belacan (pronounced ‘blachan’) is a traditional Malay sauce made by frying a mixture of mainly pounded dried chillies and fermented prawn paste. It is customarily served with rice dishes and is especially popular when mixed with crunchy pan-roasted ikan bilis (sun dried anchovies) when it is known as Sambal Ikan Bilis.
* Curry dishes which usually contain fresh or dried chillies.
Fresh or dried chilies are often used to make hot sauce, a liquid condiment – usually bottled when commercially available – that adds spice to other dishes. Hot sauces are found in many cuisines including harissa from North Africa, chili oil from China (known as rāyu in Japan), and sriracha from Thailand.

 
* Capsaicin is considered a safe and effective topical analgesic agent in the management of arthritis pain, herpes zoster-related pain, diabetic neuropathy, mastectomy pain, and headaches. However, a study published in 2010 has linked capsaicin to skin cancer.

 
* Capsaicin extracted from chilis is used in pepper spray as an irritant, a form of less-lethal weapon.

 
* Conflicts between farmers and elephants have long been widespread in African and Asian countries, where pachyderms nightly destroy crops, raid grain houses, and sometimes kill people. Farmers have found the use of chilies effective in crop defense against elephants. Elephants don’t like capsaicin, the chemical in chilies that makes them hot. Because the elephants have a large and sensitive olfactory and nasal system, the smell of the chili causes them discomfort and deters them from feeding on the crops. By planting a few rows of the pungent fruit around valuable crops, farmers create a buffer zone through which the elephants are reluctant to pass. Chilly-Dung Bombs are also used for this purpose. They are bricks made of mixing dung and chili, and are burned, creating a noxious smoke that keeps hungry elephants out of farmers fields. This can lessen dangerous physical confrontation between people and elephants.

 

Cubanelle peppers

Cubanelle peppers

* As birds have a lessened sensitivity to the effects of chili it can be used to keep mammalian vermin from bird seed.

 
Red chilies contain large amounts of vitamin C and small amounts of carotene (provitamin A). Yellow and especially green chilies (which are essentially unripe fruit) contain a considerably lower amount of both substances. In addition, peppers are a good source of most B vitamins, and vitamin B6 in particular. They are very high in potassium, magnesium, and iron. Their very high vitamin C content can also substantially increase the uptake of non-heme iron from other ingredients in a meal, such as beans and grains.

 

 

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  1. Reblogged this on roehilldotnet.

  2. […] Herb and Spice of the Week – Chili Pepper […]


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