Chilli Fever -- The food that bites back
Nutrition - Growing tips - Hotness Scales
- Medicinal Properties
80% of the world's population eat chillies. Christopher Columbus brought
them back to Europe in 1493 or thereabouts. It is believed that
Chillies were first cultivated in Peru and Bolivia over 7000 years ago
It is a bit of a puzzle as to why chilis are eaten
by humans, granted, they are extremely nutritious, but they do cause
pain. Pain is normally a sign that harm is being done to the body, and
will be avoided, however with chillies the pain is a result of a tiny
quantity of a chemical stimulating pain
receptors. The burning sensation then stimulates the
production of endorphins (a pain-relieving and pleasure-giving
chemical), which in turn produces a feeling of well-being. It is
possible that, because the endorphin "rush" is longer lasting that the
pain sensation one is left with a final impression of
well-being so "Pavlov's Conditioned Reflex" does actually
apply in this case.
It is also a puzzle as to why a plant
would develop a pain producing chemical? The answer
seems to be that the the Chili Plant developed the hotness to
discourage mammals, but not birds from eating the seeds. Saving the
seeds for birds more effectively spreads the seeds. Birds lack the type
of pain sensing receptor cells that the active chemical, capsaicin
fits. A tasty snack for the birds, but a painful, if harmless
experience to more complex life forms.
If you do not want your chilies to scorch your
mouth it is possible to reduce the strength by scraping away
the white tissue and discarding the seeds. You can also make chillies
milder by soaking in vinegar.
Like potatoes, eggplants or aubergines and tomatoes
Chillies belong to the Solanaceae family.
When they first arrived in Europe, Chili Peppers
were regarded as having medicinal properties. Depression was one of the
many symptoms that they were believed to cure.
The active chemical is
Capsaicin. formula - N-Vanillyl-8-methyl-6-(E)-noneamide
Individual plants can vary in hotness and even the fruit from one plant
can vary quite a bit, making it difficult to accurately grade the
Several people have tried to develop scales and
rating systems. A useful one is the Scoville Scale, invented
by Wilbur Scoville, an American Chemist. Nowadays it is possible to
measure hotness with a more accurate method, HPLC or "liquid
Varieties of hot chilies:-
Aci Sivri, Aji Brown, Rojo,Yellow, Almapaprika, Anaheim, Ancho, Azr,
Bell pepper varieties., Cabai Burong, Cascabel, Cayenne, Cherry,
Chiltepin, Chimayo, Cobra, Dagger pod, De Arbol, Demre, Espanola,
Guajillo, Habanero, Jalapeno, Japones, Kalimpong Firedrop, Manzano or Rocoto, Merah,
Mexican Negro, Mirasol, Mulato, New Mexican, Naga Jolokia, Pasilla, Pequin, Punjab,
Pusa Jwalla, Rocoto, Sandia, Santa Fe Grande, Santo Domingo Pueblo,
Scotch Bonnet, Serrano, Tabasco, Tepin, Tezpur,Thai, Trupti, Yatsufusa,
Unlike CS gas and Mace, Pepper spray based on
capsaicin is relatively non-toxic and the enforcement agencies using alternatives
could be leaving themselves open to prosecution and costly law suits.
Capsaicin is only very mildly irritating in cellular terms and allergic
reactions are rare in those who do not already have allergic conditions.
is richer in Vitamin C than citrus fruit, having between 2 and 3.5
times as much per unit weight.