Chili peppers Nahuatl chili are varieties of the berry-fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, which are members of the nightshade family Solanaceae, cultivated for their pungency. Chili peppers are widely used in many cuisines as a spice to add “heat” to dishes. Capsaicin and related compounds known as capacious are the substances giving chili peppers their intensity when ingested or applied topically. Other varieties of capsicum include bell peppers (UK: sweet peppers), but while chili peppers are (to varying degrees) pungent, bell peppers are not.
In this post, Pritish Kumar Halder takes a brief look at Chili Paper
Capsicum plants originated in modern-day Bolivia and have been a part of human diets since about 7,500 BC. They are one of the oldest cultivated crops in the Americas. Origins of cultivating chili peppers are traced to east-central Mexico some 6,000 years ago, although according to research by the New York Botanical Garden press in 2014, chili plants were first cultivated independently across different locations in the Americas including highland Bolivia, central Mexico, and the Amazon. They were one of the first self-pollinating crops cultivated in Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America.
Species and cultivars
Thai pepper, similar in variety to the African Birdseye, exhibits considerable strength for its size
There are five domesticated species of chili peppers. Capsicum annuum includes many common varieties such as bell peppers, wax, cayenne, jalapeños, Thai peppers, chiltepin, and all forms of New Mexico Chile. Capsicum frutescens includes malagueta, tabasco, piri piri, and Malawian Kambuzi. Capsicum chinense includes the hottest peppers such as the naga, habanero, Datil and Scotch bonnet. Capsicum pubescens includes the South American rocoto peppers. Capsicum baccatum includes the South American aji peppers.
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, 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.
Chili pepper pods are technically berries. When used fresh, they are most often prepared and eaten like a vegetable. Whole pods can be dried and then crushed or ground into chili powder that is used as a spice or seasoning. Chilies can be dried to prolong their shelf life. Chile peppers can also be preserved by brining, immersing the pods in oil, or by pickling.
Many fresh chilies such as poblano have a tough outer skin that does not break down on cooking. Chilies 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.
The contrast in color and appearance makes chili plants interesting to some as a purely decorative garden plant.
Black pearl pepper: small cherry-shaped fruits and dark brown to black leaves
Black Pearl Pepper.
Black pearl pepper
Black Hungarian pepper: green foliage, highlighted by purple veins and purple flowers, jalapeño-shaped fruits.
Psychologist Paul Rozin suggests that eating chilies is an example of a “constrained risk” like riding a roller coaster, in which extreme sensations like pain and fear can be enjoyed because individuals know that these sensations are not actually harmful. This method lets people experience extreme feelings without any significant risk of bodily harm.
Birds do not have the same sensitivity to capsaicin, because it targets a specific pain receptor in mammals. Chili peppers are eaten by birds living in the chili peppers’ natural range, possibly contributing to seed dispersal and evolution of the protective capsaicin in chili peppers, as a bird in flight can spread the seeds further away from the parent plant after they pass through its digestive system than any land or tree dwelling mammal could do so under the same circumstances, thus reducing competition for resources.
Red hot chili peppers are 88% water, 9% carbohydrates, 2% protein, and 0.4% fat (table). In a 100-gram reference amount, chili peppers supply 40 calories, and are a rich source of vitamin C and vitamin B6 (table).