Chili Pepper (Solanaceae)
Chili Peppers come in an amazing variety of colours and flavours. These include mild flavoured such as sweet bell peppers and extend to the fiery jalapeno and the blazing hot habaneros. There are several species of peppers all belonging to the capsicum family. Chili Peppers 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 in Asia, Africa, Americas and some parts of Europe Of the world’s population, a large 75 percent use Chili Peppers in their cooking regularly. In many third world countries, Chili Peppers are relied on as the main flavouring of their dishes. Cayenne pepper is a very popular way to consume Chili Peppers. It is dried Chili Peppers that have been ground into a very hot powder.
In general, all Chili Peppers will grow through from green, to yellow, to orange and then to red.
Chili Peppers come in many shapes, sizes and flavours; they can be hot, sweet, fruity, earthy, smoky and floral. As with bell peppers, the red tends to be the sweetest form.
A general rule with Chili Pepper is that the larger the fruit, the milder the taste, this however is not always the case. The pungency in a Chili Pepper is cause by the chemical capsaicin. The hotter the Chili Pepper, the more capsaicin it contains.
When you remove the seeds and inner membrane of the fruit, much of the heat is taken out.
Chili Pepper, when cut, has a strong peppery aroma; you can smell the heat as the capsaicin is released.
Chili Pepper can be found in dishes from all around the globe, from the Indian curries to the Korean kimchis to Mexican dishes and the ubiquitous Chili Pepper sauces. Chili Pepper peppers work well with garlic, fermented beans, ginger, coconuts, shallots and fish.
Chili Peppers are generally grown with seeds that are best planted in spring or early summer roughly 55-68⁰F. Pick a sunny spot in the garden or 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 Chili Peppers are picked they will not ripen any further. Hence, if you pick a yellow Chili Pepper it will not ripen into a red Chili Pepper.
It has been found that growing Chili Pepper in between other plants can cut aphids by 40- 90%.
The flowers on the Chili Pepper plant are built to self-pollinate. If you want to collect the seeds of a Chili Pepper plant that is not mixed with any other strain of Chili Pepper, plants should not be within 200 meters of each other, or plants should be covered with a fine net or shade cloth.
The Chili Pepper fruit that comes from the initial flowers is generally found to be brighter in colour, and larger.
Pollen retains its viability for 8-10 days when temperature is roughly 68-72⁰F. Harvesting of Chili Peppers varies between varieties from 60 days to 150 days from planting.
Many years ago Chili Pepper was used in the mouth as a natural anesthetic. Chili Peppers had a large place in the cookery and medicine of the Aztecs and Inca’s. The oldest known use from the Chili Pepper family dates from 7000BC in the caves near Tamaulipas.
In 1492 Christopher Columbus arrived in Hispaniola to discover the use of Chili Pepper was wide spread. He recorded that their variety was much bitter than he had encountered and that they used Chili Peppers in majority of their meals. It was referred to as ‘axi’.
Consuming Chili Pepper 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 Pepper has been used as a remedy for alcoholism.
People with hypertension should avoid Chili Peppers as it is one of the greatest herbal stimulants.
Chili Pepper, 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 Pepper
Young leaves of the Chili Pepper plant can be eaten and offer up a very pungent aroma. Chili Pepper based paints have been shown to stop barnacles growing on the bottoms of boats.
Chili Peppers 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 Chili Pepper ensure that hands are washed well with soap to avoid any eye irritation.
Does Chili Pepper help you lose weight?
Chili Pepper can help curve cravings for fat, oils and salts. So in that sense, it does influence unhealthy eating. Studies have also found that eating Chili Pepper with higher fat meals can help burn the calories faster. This of course has to be followed with exercise.
Can Chili Pepper burn your skin?
Having Chili Pepper 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 Pepper plants survive the winter?
It depends on your climate. If it regularly frosts, it is unlikely that they will survive outside. However, if you’ve planted your Chili Pepper in a pot that can be transported inside there should be no problem.