Linn. and C. frutescens Linn.
Family : Solanaceae
Other names: Chili; pepperDescription
or pepper (Capsicum) is any of a great number of plants of
the night shade family, Solanaceae, extensively cultivated throughout
tropical Asia and equatorial America for their edible, pungent fruits.
India is the largest producer and exporter of chillies. The genus
Capsicum comprised all the varied forms of fleshy-fruited
peppers grown as herbaceous annuals - the red, green, and yellow
pepper rich in vitamins A and C that are used in seasoning and as
a vegetable food. It includes paprika, chili pepper, red pepper
(cayenne), and bell peppers. The latter one is considered and eaten
as a vegetable and is not covered in this section. The capsicums
under each category vary tremendously and the species designation
is not always possible. In general, paprika belongs to C.annum
and the red peppers and chili peppers belong to the C.frutescens
species. The name chilli is believed to be derived from an ancient
Indian word txile. The term "pimiento," from the Spanish
for "pepper", is applied to certain mild pepper varieties possessing
distinctive flavour but lacking in pungency; these include the European
paprikas, which include the paprika of commerce, a powdered red
condiment that was known in Hungary by the late 16th century.
Peppers, which have been found in
prehistoric remains in Peru, were widely grown in Central and
South America in pre-Columbian times and are considered indigenous
to the the Western Hemisphere. Christopher Columbus found capsicum
peppers in the New World and wrote about them. The Indians as far
back as 7000 BC, the remains of which were found in archeological
sites in Mexico, ate capsicums. Pepper seeds were carried to Spain
in 1493 and from there spread rapidly throughout Europe.
The chilli plant is bush-like, grows
up to about 0.6m and bears white flowers that produce fruits in
a variety of sizes, colours and shapes. The plants grow at altitudes
from sea level to 1,800 m above MSL in the tropics. Their pungency
is influenced by several factors, such as high night temperatures
and drought or over-watering.
Pepper plants are treated as tender
summer annuals outside their native habitat. They are propagated
by planting seed directly in the field or by transplanting seedlings
started in green houses or hotbeds after 6-10 weeks. Green chillies
are immature fruits and red chillies have been allowed to ripen
for a further 4 weeks.
Aroma and flavour
The pungency for the red peppers
and the colour value for the paprikas are the most important parameters.
Hot peppers, used as relishes, pickled or ground into a fine powder
for use as spices, derive their pungency from the compound capsaicin
(8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-enamide), a substance characterized by acrid
and burning taste, that is located in the internal partitions of
the fruit. First isolated in 1876, capsaicin stimulates gastric
secretions and, if used in excess, causes inflammation. It is a
tasteless, odourless white crystalline substance. Its level varies
widely in capsicum peppers, from less than 0.05% in the mildly pungent
types to as high as 1.3% in the hottest chillies. The pungency level
is usually represented in Scoville heat values. Pungency levels
vary in the same variety, by geographical region, and in maturity
levels. Volatile oil content is low in all capscicums. The pigment
responsible for the colour in paprikas is capxanthin, a carotenoid.
Other carotenoids present are capsorubin, zeaxanthin, lutein, kryptoxanthin
and alpha and beta-carotene. The pigment content increases as the
fruit ripens and continues after maturity.The extractable colour
of parika is usually expressed in ASTA colour value or in Colour
Units, which are 40 times the ASTA colour.
Chillies have a chemical effect on
our bodies as they stimulate the appetite and cool the body. The
chilli flavour revolutionized the cooking of tropical countries.
Red pepper is used in a large variety of products, often in the
meat and pickling industry in the form of crushed red pepper or
ground red pepper. It is used either in the ground form or as oleoresin
in any product that has some heat or pungency. A fine powder made
from specially mild varieties of pepper, C.annum, is known
as paprika. Paprika is used more extensively whenever a red to orange
colour is desired such as in processed meats, snack, foods, sauces,
gravies, salad dressings etc.
Chilli pepper is used primarily
in the manufacture of chilli powders. Cayenne pepper is a very fine
ground powder from the C.frutescens variety. It is widely
used as a seasoning and it is also added to some curries. Chilli
powder of chili pepper is the dried ground product of the milder
peppers. It is a blended product of different chilies to get the
exact flavour profile and colour desired. Chilli peppers are often
caramelized to get a burnt flavour note and a surface browned colour.
Common heat values for chilli peppers are mild, about 100 Scoville
heat units. Tabasco sauce or chilli sauce is a North American seasoning
made from extremely hot Tabasco or cone chillies, which are mixed
with vinegar and then matured in white oak casks for several years.
It is widely used in small quantities as a general seasoning. Chilli
is also used as a paste and in crushed form in several dishes.