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Chili pepper


Chili pepper (from Nahuatl chilli), also known as, or spelled, chilli pepper, chilli, chillie, chili, and chile, is the fruit of the plants from the genus Capsicum, members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae.

Although botanically speaking, the fruit of capsicums are berries, the peppers are considered as vegetables or spices for culinary purposes. Depending on flavor intensity and fleshiness, their culinary use varies from use as a vegetable to use as a spice .

Chili peppers originated in the Americas. Their cultivars are now grown around the world, because they are widely used as food and as medicine.

History

Chili peppers have been a part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BC. There is archaeological evidence at sites located in southwestern Ecuador that chili peppers were domesticated more than 6000 years ago,Perry, L. et al. 2007. Starch fossils and the domestication and dispersal of chili peppers (Capsicum spp. L.) in the Americas. Science 315: 986-988. Link. and is one of the first cultivated crops in the Americas that is self-pollinating.

Chili peppers were domesticated at least in different parts of South and Central America. Bosland, P.W. 1996. Capsicums: Innovative uses of an ancient crop. p. 479-487. In: J. Janick (ed.), Progress in new crops. ASHS Press, Arlington, VA.

Christopher Columbus was one of the first Europeans to encounter them (in the Caribbean), and called them "peppers" because of their similarity in taste (though not in appearance) with the Old World black peppers of the Piper genus.

Chilies were cultivated around the globe after Columbus.Heiser Jr., C.B. 1976. Pp. 265-268 in N.W. Simmonds (ed.). Evolution of Crop Plants. London: Longman.Eshbaugh, W.H. 1993. Pp. 132-139 in J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.). New Crops. New York: Wiley. Diego Alvarez Chanca, a physician on Columbus' second voyage to the West Indies in 1493, brought the first chili peppers to Spain, and first wrote about their medicinal effects in 1494.

From Mexico, at the time the Spanish colony that controlled commerce with Asia, chili peppers spread rapidly into the Philippines and then to India, China, Korea and Japan. They were quickly incorporated into the local cuisines.

An alternate sequence for chili peppers' spread has the Portuguese getting the pepper from Spain, and thence to India, as described by Lizzie Collingham in her book Curry. Collingham states in her book that the chili pepper figures heavily in the cuisine of the Goan region of India, which was the site of a Portuguese colony . Collingham also describes the journey of chili peppers from India, through Central Asia and Turkey, to Hungary, where it became the national spice in the form of paprika.

There are speculations about pre-Columbian chili peppers in Europe. In an archaeological dig in the block of St. Botulf in Lund, archaeologists found a Capsicum frutescens in a layer dating to the 13th century. Hjelmqvist says that Capsicum was described by the Greek Theophrastus (370-286 BC). He mentions other ancient sources. The Roman poet Martialis (around the 1st century) described "Piper crudum" (raw pepper) to be long and containing seeds. The description of the plants does not fit black pepper (Piper nigrum) but does fit that of long pepper.

Species and cultivars

The common species of chili peppers are:

Capsicum annuum, which includes many common varieties such as bell peppers, wax, cayenne, jalapenos, and the chiltepin

Capsicum frutescens, which includes the tabasco and Thai peppers

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

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 jalapeno, the poblano (which when dried is referred to as ancho), New Mexico (which is also known as chile colorado), Anaheim, serrano, and other cultivars.

The species C. frutescens appears as chiles de arbol, aji, tabasco, cherry peppers, malagueta and others.

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.

Intensity

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 the primary ingredient in pepper spray.

When consumed, capsaicinoids bind with pain receptors in the mouth and throat that are normally 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 studyJournal of Biological Chemistry, 2008, 283, 21418 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 heat.Hot News about Chili Peppers, Chemical & Engineering News, 86, 33, 18 Aug. 2008, p. 35

The "heat" of chili peppers is measured in Scoville heat units (SHU), which is the number of times a chili extract must be diluted in water for it to lose its heat. Bell peppers rank at 0 SHU, New Mexico green chilis at about 1,500 SHU, jalapenos at 3,0006,000 SHU, and habaneros at 300,000 SHU. The record for the hottest chili pepper was assigned by Guinness World Records to the naga jolokia (from northeastern India), measuring over 1,000,000 SHU. Pure capsaicin, which is a hydrophobic, colorless, odorless, and crystalline-to-waxy solid at room temperature, measures 16,000,000 SHU.

Uses

Culinary uses

The chili has a long association with and is extensively used in Mexican and certain South American cuisines, and later adapted into the emerging Tex-Mex cuisine. Although unknown in Africa and Asia until its introduction from the New World by the Europeans, the chili pepper has since become an essential pillar of the cuisines of many Asian countries.

The fruit is eaten raw or cooked for its fiery hot flavour, concentrated along the top of the pod. The stem end of the pod has most of the glands that produce the capsaicin. The white flesh surrounding the seeds contains the highest concentration of capsaicin. Removing the inner membranes is thus effective at reducing the heat of a pod.

Chili is sold worldwide fresh, dried and powdered. In the United States, it is often made from the Mexican chile ancho variety, but with small amounts of cayenne added for heat. In the Southwest United States, dried ground chili peppers, cumin, garlic and oregano is often known as chili powder. Chipotles are dry, smoked red (ripe) jalapenos.

Chili peppers are used around the world to make a countless variety of sauces, known as hot sauce, chile sauce, or pepper sauce. In Turkey, chilis are known as Kirmizi Biber (red pepper) or Aci Biber (hot pepper), and are used in the form of either red pepper paste (Biber Salcasi), which can be hot or mild. Harissa is a hot pepper sauce made of chili, garlic and flavoured with spices, originating in Tunisia and widely used in its cuisine, both as a condiment and as seasoning. Harissa is also found in other North African cuisines, though it is often treated as a table condiment to be served on the side.

Indian cooking has multiple uses for chilis, from simple snacks like bhaji, where the chilis are dipped in batter and fried, to complex curries. Chilis are dried, roasted and salted as a side dish for rice varieties such as "Dadhyodanam" or "thayir sadam" (Tamil name for curd rice) elsewhere in India known as Dahibhaat, or daal rice (rice with split peas or any variety of lentils). The soaked and dried chillies are a seasoning ingredient in recipes such as kootu. It is called "mirapa" in telugu. Telugu cuisine uses chilly pickles made almost entirely in chilly, while Jain and Kolhapuri cuisines are known to be of the most extreme users of chilly in proportion to the quantity of food.

Amongst the varieties used regularly in India the longer ones are the most common, length generally comparable to an adult person's smallest finger, while the hottest ones are about half to one quarter of that size and are called "clove chilly" (lavangie mirchie) due to the size. In Tamilnadu longer dried red chillies are used for all other seasonings while round dried red chillies are used for daal preparations such as Saambhaar or KoLumbu .

In various parts of India often people, especially farm workers and people connected to roots, use fresh green chilly to take a bite every so often during a meal. This is so common a practice that some dishes in north, especially Punjab (Panjaab) are served with fresh whole green chilly or two, along with lime and - or - tomato slices; for example one preparation of the very popular "chhole" (garbanzo) is served that way, made dry and spicy and eaten with variety of variations of chapaatie such as kulchaa or bhaturaa.

Chilies are a ubiquitous part of Bangladeshi cooking, with three types most commonly used. Bogura Chili, grown mostly in the Jessore district, are very hot. Green chilies are used in vegetable and fish dishes, as well as raw compliments to a salad or meal. Red chili is allowed to ripen, then dried and used in meat curry, or fire roasted and added to mash potatoes or bhatta.

Sambal is a versatile relish made from chili peppers as well as other ingredients, such as garlic, onion, shallots, salt, vinegar and sugar, which is popular in Indonesia and Malaysia, and also in Sri Lanka (called "sambol") and South Africa, where they were introduced by Malay migrant workers who arrived in the 19th century. It can be used as a dipping sauce, as an ingredient in recipes and even as a dressing for cold dishes (or "salads").

Chili pepper plant leaves, mildly bitter but not nearly as hot as the vegetables that come from the same plant, 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. http://www.tribo.org/vegetables/dahongsili.html tribo.org 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.

In Italian cuisine, crushed red pepper flakes are a common ingredient on pizza, among other things. It is also commonly used in Turkey as a garnish, called Biber Dovme.

Decoration

Some chili peppers are not grown for consumption; they are instead grown for decorative qualities as "ornamental peppers". Some are too hot for typical cooking, or are not palatable. Regardless, ornamental peppers have unusual shapes or colours. Examples include Thai ornamental, black pearl, marble, and numex twilight. The medusa pepper is a green plant that produces vegetable starting purple, then ripening to yellow, orange, and red. Black pearl has black leaves and round black fruit that ripen to a bright red.

Superstition

In India, chili is used with lime to ward off evil spirits and is seen in vehicles and in homes for that purpose. It is used to check the evil eye and remove its effects in Hinduism

Psychologist Paul Rozin suggests that eating chilis 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 risk of bodily harm.

Medicinal

Capsaicin is a safe and effective analgesic agent in the management of arthritis pain, herpes zoster-related pain, diabetic neuropathy, postmastectomy pain, and headaches.

Personal defence

Capsaicin extracted from chillis is used in a spray as a less-lethal weapon.

Nutritional value

Red chilis contain high amounts of vitamin C and carotene (provitamin A). Yellow and especially green chilis (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 and high in magnesium and iron. Their 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.

Evolutionary advantages

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. The seeds of the peppers are distributed by the birds that drop the seeds while eating the pods, and the seeds pass through the digestive tract unharmed. This relationship may have promoted the evolution of the protective capsaicin.Tewksbury, J. J. and G. P. Nabhan. 2001. Directed deterrence by capsaicin in chillies. Nature412:403-404. Products based on this substance have been sold to treat the seeds in bird feeders to deter squirrels and other mammalian vermin without also deterring birds. Capsaicin is also a defense mechanism against microbial fungi that invades through punctures made in the outer skin by various insects.

Spelling and usage

The three primary spellings are chili, chile and chilli, all of which are recognized by dictionaries.

Chili is widely used, although in much of South America the plant and its vegetable are better known as aji, locoto, chile, or rocoto. However, this spelling is discouraged by some in the United States of America, since it also commonly refers to a popular Southwestern-American dish (also known as chili con carne (literally chili with meat); the official state dish of Texas), as well as to the mixture of cumin and other spices (chili powder) used to flavor it. Chili, as in the case of Cincinnati chili, can also refer to ground beef stews that do not actually contain any chile peppers. Chili powder and chile powder, on the other hand, can both refer to dried, ground chili peppers.

Chile is an alternate usage, the most common Spanish spelling in Mexico, as well as some parts of the United States of America and Canada, which refers specifically to this plant and its fruit. In the American Southwest (particularly northern New Mexico), chile also denotes a thick, spicy, un-vinegared sauce, which is available in red and green varieties and which is often served over most [[w:New Mexican Food|New Mexican cuisine]].

Chilli was the original Romanization of the Nahuatl language word for the fruit (chilli) and is the preferred British spelling according to the Oxford English Dictionary, although it also lists chile and chili as variants. This spelling is discouraged by some, since it would be pronounced differently in Spanish, into which it was first Romanized.

The name of the plant bears no relation to Chile, the country, which is named after the Quechua chin ("cold"), tchili ("snow"), or chilli ("where the land ends"). Chile is one of the Spanish-speaking countries where chilis are known as aji, a word of Taino origin.

There is also some disagreement about whether it is proper to use the word pepper when discussing chili peppers because pepper originally referred to the genus Piper, not Capsicum. Despite this dispute, a sense of pepper referring to Capsicum is supported by English dictionaries, including the Oxford English Dictionary (sense 2b of pepper) and Merriam-Webster. Furthermore, the word pepper is commonly used in the botanical and culinary fields in the names of different types of chili peppers.

Possible health benefits

All hot chili peppers contain phytochemicals known collectively as capsaicinoids.

Capsaicin was shown, in laboratory settings, to cause cancer cell death in rats.

Capsaicin in chilies has been found to inhibit chemically induced carcinogenesis and mutagenesis in various animal models and cell culture systems.

Recent research in mice shows that chili (capsaicin in particular) may offer some hope of weight loss for people suffering from obesity.

Researchers used capsaicin from chilies to kill nerve cells in the pancreases of mice with Type 1 diabetes, thus allowing the insulin producing cells to start producing insulin again.

Research in humans found that "after adding chili to the diet, the LDL, or bad cholesterol, actually resisted oxidation for a longer period of time, [delaying] the development of a major risk for cardiovascular disease".

Researchers found that the amount of insulin required to lower blood sugar after a meal is reduced if the meal contains chili pepper.

Chili peppers are being probed as a treatment for alleviating chronic pain.

Spices, including chili, are theorized to control the microbial contamination levels of food in countries with minimal or no refrigeration.

Hot peppers are claimed to provide symptomatic relief from rhinitis, but a review study found no effect.

Several studies found that capsaicin could have an anti-ulcer protective effect on stomachs infected with H. pylori by affecting the chemicals the stomach secretes in response to infection.

By combining an anesthetic with capsaicin, researchers can block pain in rat paws without causing temporary paralysis. This anesthetic may one day allow patients to be conscious during surgery and may also lead to the development of more effective chronic pain treatments.

Possible health risks and precautions

A high consumption of chili may be associated with stomach cancer.

Chili powders may sometimes be adulterated with Sudan I, II, III, IV, para-Red, and other illegal carcinogenic dyes.

Aflatoxins and N-nitroso compounds, which are carcinogenic, are frequently found in chili powder.

Chronic ingestion of chili products may induce gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).

Chili may increase the number of daily bowel movements and lower pain thresholds for people with irritable bowel syndrome.

Chilis should never be swallowed whole; there are cases where unchewed chilis have caused bowel obstruction and perforation.

Consumption of red chilis should be avoided after anal fissure surgery to aid the healing process.

External links

Better Homes & Gardens guide to Chillies

Plant Cultures: Chilli pepper botany, history and uses

The Chile Pepper Institute of New Mexico State University

Capsicums: Innovative Uses of an Ancient Crop

Chile varieties database

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Chili pepper


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