Chilli is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum which are members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The plant is capable of mutating very quickly and as a result you have so many varieties. They come in all shapes, sizes, colours and spiciness. The environment also impacts what the pepper will look and taste like: soil, temperature, and weather all need to be taken into account.
I am going to share some interesting facts about chillies.
Peppers are believed to be one of the first plants to have been domesticated, and chili pepper seeds from over 6000 years ago have been found in Peru and Mexico.
Scientists believe that the capsaicin in chillies exists to keep infestations of fungi at bay. Insects like to poke holes in the skin of fruits, and as a result, harmful fungi can make their way in. To combat this, a pepper’s capsaicinoids can slow the growth of the microbes. While capsaicin may burn and irritate the flesh of mammals, birds are completely immune to its effects. Since birds are immune to the burn, it doesn’t affect their appetite and the plant can still spread its seeds successfully.
If you think of oranges are the best source of vitamin C, then think again. Chillies for example, have about 107 mg of Vitamin C, compared to an orange’s 69 mg.
There is a very strict and definitive scale for ranking your pepper’s hotness. Called the Scoville scale, it’s named after a pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville. Scoville wanted a standard measurement with which to compare chilli hotness.
The more mild bell peppers fall within the 1-100 SHU (Scoville Heat Units) side of the scale, while hotter peppers like cayenne are more like 30,000 – 50,000 SHU. If you’re curious about what’s at the very end of the spectrum, the spiciest pepper known to man is called the Carolina Reaper, which can get up to 2.2 million SHU.
When Christopher Columbus and his crew reached the Caribbean, they were the first Europeans to encounter Capsicum. They called them “peppers” because, like black pepper of the genus Piper known in Europe, they have a spicy, hot taste unlike other foods.
The spread of chillies to Asia occurred through its introduction by Portuguese traders, who – aware of its trade value and resemblance to the spiciness of black pepper – promoted its commerce in the Asian spice trade routes. It was introduced in India by the Portuguese towards the end of the 15th century. India along with China are the world leaders in chilli production.
I love chillies and it is such an integral part of so many c of my recipes. Every year I pickle jalapenos and also make a hot sauce. Over the years, I have refined my recipe and you can make the sauce as hot as you want by adding to the mix very hot chillies. This also makes great presents for chilli lovers. Please wear gloves when you are making the sauce.
INGREDIENTS FOR HOT SAUCE
1 kg of mixed chillies, washed and stalks removed
30ml lime juice
300g red peppers
Put all the ingredients except lime juice in a food processor and blend well. Pour into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer on low to medium low heat. Remove any scum that comes up to the top. Once it starts to cook, it will thicken and this could take an hour or hour and a half. Remove from stove and mix in the lime juice. Sieve once cooled and bottle. Will keep in fridge for up to a year. Makes about a litre of hot sauce.