Chili peppers originated in the Americas and were spread across the world after European exploration. They are used in both food and medicine and as non-lethal weapons (think pepper spray and the recent Chilli grenade using the Bhut Jalokia pepper).
Chilli peppers range from sweet and mild to extremely “hot” and sometimes bitter. They are used in various cuisines fresh, smoked/dried, dried whole, dried and ground, roasted, boiled, baked, stuffed; as sandwich toppings, as side dishes, snacks, dressing/garnish, etc.
Recent research into capsaicin (the component of chili peppers that makes them hot) suggests that chili peppers may be beneficial in reducing weight gain and may also have a positive effect in fighting cancer.
|Ancho Pepper (dried Poblano)
|Bananna Pepper, raw
|4 1/2″ long
|Chili Pepper, green or red, raw
|Chili Pepper, Sun dried
|Jalapeño Pepper, raw
|Serrano Pepper (raw)
|Habenero Pepper (raw)
|Hungarian Pepper (raw)
|Sweet Pepper, Red, Raw
|Sweet Pepper, Green, Raw
Various spellings: Chili, Chilli, Chile are the three recognized spellings used around the world, also called capsicum in some areas. Other spellings: Chille, chilie, chillie.
Conversion from grams to ounce: 28.3495231g(rounded to 28.35)= 1 oz
Growing your own chili peppers has turned out to be pretty easy. I built several raised garden beds (very easy to make) and use one bed for assorted peppers. For the soil we used a mix of composted steer manure, some clean top soil, forest compost, and potting mix.
Conversion From Fresh to Dried and Ground
Drying your own chili peppers is a great way to have chili peppers available year round. Dried chilies are also a good way to create your own ground chili powder or pepper/spice blends. We usually sun dry an assortment, then freeze them, but there are times when the weather just doesn’t co-operate so we use an electric dehydrator.
What You Need to Know about the Chili
The chili is the most popular spice today which originated from the American soil. It is the berry-fruit of the plants belonging to the genus Capsicum. Interestingly, the chili was introduced to many countries in the same period that the existence of America was known to the rest of the world through Spanish colonization.
Whether you spell it as chili, chilli, or chile, spice-lovers are sure to look for the invigoratingly hot flavor that the chili adds to our favorite dishes. How much do you know about chilies?
Read this article to learn about the interesting travel of the chili from the American continent to virtually almost all tables around the world.
History of the Chili
The chili was originally cultivated in the American continent, particularly Mexico, from 7500 AD until the late 1400s. Its domesticated and wild forms were widespread in South America and was harvested by chili lovers for yield. Archaeologists suggest that the capsicum annum was the first cultivated species of chili.
In October 1492, Christopher Columbus, searching for black pepper and cinnamon, encountered the chili after his two scouts mistakenly reported that cinnamon reed was being transported in bulk by the Indians. He found that chili – or “axi” as he noted in his journal – tasted better than the black pepper.
After Columbus’ discovery of the New World, the Spaniards settled in Central America and the west side of South America where garrisons and ports linking several Spanish colonies paved way for the distribution of the chili across the world. When the chili was brought to Spain in 1943, its culinary might was studied by monks in Spanish and Portuguese monasteries.
Fifty years since, the chili reached almost every corner of the world.
Where Chilies are Grown
Chilies are best grown in countries with warmer climates and can grow in a variety of soils. Germinated chili seeds need moist soil and a lot of sunlight. It takes around 75 days for most chilies to mature.
As of 2017, the biggest producers of chilies in the world are China, Mexico, and Turkey, wherein China produces almost half of the chilies consumed worldwide.
Thanks to its capsaicin compound, the chili offers many health benefits. Specifically, chili has vitamin C (good for healing wounds), vitamin B6 (good for metabolism), vitamin K1 (good for blood clotting), potassium (good for reducing risk of heart disease), copper (good for the bones), and vitamin A (good for the eyes).
According to USDA Food Composition Databases, a tablespoon of chili peppers contain:
- Calories: 6
- Water: 88%
- Protein: 0.3 grams
- Carbs: 1.3 grams
- Sugar: 0.8 grams
- Fiber: 0.2 grams
- Fat: 0.1 grams
Species of Chili
Chilies have more than 10,000 varieties which differ in size, shape and color, but they are bred from these five common species:
- Capsicum annum. This is the most common chili species with thousands of developed varieties such as the famous Jalapeño. This species is where sweet pepper and paprika originate.
- Capsicum baccatum. This species looks like a berry and is called “aji” in South America. Its most popular variety is the Bishop’s Crown or Christmas Bell.
- Capsicum chinense. This very hot and popular chili species in the Caribbean actually originated from Amazon Brazil. Its most popular varieties are the Fatalii and Habanero.
- Capsicum fruitescens. This bushy species is where the Tabasco and African Birds Eye chilies come from.
- Capsicum pubescens. This is the least known chili species with hairy leaves and black seeds.
The chili is famous not only for its culinary use but for other purposes as well. The list below details the popular uses of the chili.
- Culinary use. The chili is primarily used as a spice or seasoning for various dishes. It is present in many cuisines such as the puttanesca, jambalaya, and curry dishes.
- Ornamental plant. The contrasting colors of the chili makes it perfect as a decorative garden plant. Commonly used ornamental chilies are the Black Pearl and Bishop’s Crown.
- Medicinal Use. The capsaicin compound of the chili is used as an analgesic to relieve pain.
- Crop Defense. African and Asian farmers have been using chilies to drive away elephants which destroy crops and raid grain houses at night.
- Chemical Irritant. The capsaicin compound of the chili is also used in formulating less lethal weapons such as pepper sprays and tear gas.
- Psychology. Just like riding a Ferris wheel, eating chili is classified as a “constrained risk” that gives humans extreme sensation without being harmful.