Chili Pepper

Chili Pepper (Solanaceae)

The family of chili peppers comes in an amazing variety of colors and flavors. These include the mild flavored members such as sweet bell peppers and extend to the fiery jalapeno and the blazing hot habaneros. There are several species all belonging to the capsicum genus. Chilies belong to the solanaceae family along with their cousins potatoes, eggplants and tomatoes.  

They have enjoyed a respectable reputation among food and spices throughout history. They are now an essential part of cuisines of Asia, Africa, Americas and some parts of Europe.

75% of the world's population use chilies regularly in their cooking. In many third world countries, chili is relied on as the main flavoring of their dishes.

In general, all chilies will grow through from green, to yellow, to orange and then to red.

Flavor

Chilies comes in many shapes, sizes and flavors; they can be hot, sweet, fruity, earthy, smoky and floral. As with capsicums, the red tends to be the sweetest form.

A general rule with chili is the larger the fruit, the milder the taste – this however is not always the case. The pungency in a chili is cause by the chemical capsaicin. The hotter the chili, the more capsaicin it contains.

When you remove the seeds and inner membrane of the fruit, much of the heat is taken out.

Aroma

Chili when cut has a strong peppery aroma, you can smell the heat as the capsaicin is released.

Pairing

Chili can be found in dishes from all around the globe, from the Indian curries to the Korean kimchis to the Mexican enchiladas and the ubiquitous chili sauces. Chili peppers work well with garlic, fermented beans, ginger, coconuts, shallots and fish.

Growing

Propagation is by seeds that are best planted in spring or early summer roughly 15-20⁰C. Grow in a sunny spot in the garden or in a large pot if cold nights are likely, than you can move the pots to a protected area during frost.

Cut off young tips to encourage the plant to become bushy. Feed and water the plant regularly.

After chilies are picked they will not ripen any further, if you pick a yellow chili it will not ripen into a red chili.

It has been found that growing chili in between other plants can cut aphids by 40-90%.

The flowers on the ch plant are built to self-pollinate. If you want to collect seed of a chilli plant that is not mixed with any other strain of chilli, plants should not be within 200 metres of each other, or plants should be covered with a fine net or shade cloth.

The chili fruit that comes from initial flowers is generally found to be brighter in color and larger.

Pollen retains its viability for 8-10 days when temperature is rough 20-22⁰C.

Harvesting of chiles varies between varieties from 60 day to 150 days from planting.

History

Many years ago chili was used in the mouth as a natural anaesthetic.

Chiles had a large place in the cookery and medicine of the Aztecs and Inca’s. The oldest known use from the chili family dates from 7000BC in the saves near Tamaulipas.

In 1492 Christopher Columbus arrived in Hispaniola to discover the use of chilli was wide spread, he recorded that their variety was much bitier than he had encountered and that they used it in majority of their meals, it was referred to as ‘axi’.

Medicinal

Consuming chili is a natural energizer; it purifies the blood and stimulates the circulatory system, giving the body more energy. Cayenne has been used for restoring gland functions so is useful in helping with glandular fever.

If you suffer hay fever, drink a cup of hot water with a pinch of cayenne pepper. Chili has been used as a remedy for alcoholism. People with hypertension should avoid chiles as it is one of the greatest herbal stimulants. Chiles, in particular cayenne lowers the amount of fibrins which cause blood clotting, causing heart attacks and strokes.

It is suggested that if you put cayenne in warm water and drink at the initial stages of a heart attack it will stop it. There is a Hungarian proverb that says, “give a dying man paprika pepper and he will live, as death cannot stand too much paprika.’ Eating capsaicin causes perceptions of pain in the brain causing a release in endorphins, blocking the pain and causing a feeling of euphoria.

Facts about Chili

Young leaves of the chili plant can be eaten and offer up a very pungent aroma.

Chili based paints have been shown to stop barnacles growing on the bottoms of boats.

Chiles aid in the digestion of proteins so should be consumed in the same meal as high amounts of protein, otherwise if consumed in low protein dishes it can cause an upset stomach.

When handling chilies, ensure that hands are washed well with soap to avoid any eye irritation.

Common Questions

Does chili help you lose weight?

Chili can help curve cravings for fat, oils and salts. So, in that sense it does help mend unhealthy eating. Studies have also found that eating chili with higher fat meals can help burn the calories faster, this of course has to be followed with exercise though.

Can chili burn your skin?

Having chili on your skin can cause an irritation in sensitive or exposed skin. It however does not cause burn in the way we classically think about it.

Will chili plants survive the winter?

If they will survive depends on your climate. If it regularly frosts it is unlikely that they will survive outside, however if you’ve planted your chili in a pot that can be transported inside there should be no problem