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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

Hotness rating
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 varieties. 

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 chromatography". 

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, Zimbabwe Bird,

Pepper Spray:-
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.

The chili is richer in Vitamin C than citrus fruit, having between 2 and 3.5 times as much per unit weight.

DE

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