Chili peppers are the fruits of Capsicum pepper plants, noted for their hot flavor.
Chile peppers are native to South and Central America.
Chili peppers were domesticated more than 6,000 years ago in Mexico, in the region that extends across southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca to southeastern Veracruz.
They were one of the first self-pollinating crops cultivated in Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America.
In early civilisations such as the Incas, Mayans and Aztecs chilli peppers were used as a currency.
Peru is considered the country with the highest cultivated chili peppers diversity because it is a center of diversification where varieties of all five domesticates were introduced, grown, and consumed in pre-Columbian times.
Bolivia is considered to be the country where the largest diversity of wild chili peppers is consumed.
Chili was brought to the rest of the world by Christopher Columbus who discovered America in 1493. Christopher had set from Spain to reach India to bring spices such as pepper back to his country. Christopher not only mistook America for India, but also mistook chili as the black pepper. That is how the chili got the name ‘chile pepper.’ He took chile pepper back to Spain where it became a very famous spice.
Chili spread to rest of the European countries. Chili became the indispensable spice in European cuisines.
In 1498, the Portuguese explorer Vasco-da-Gama reached Indian shores bringing with him the pungent spice.
Chili seeds were brought to North America for cultivation. In 1888, experiments began for cross breeding of chili plants. New breeds of chili plants were evolved. In 1906, a new variety of chili, Anaheim, was grown.
Today, there are more than 400 different varieties of chilies found all over the world.
Many of the most-common chili peppers are cultivars of Capsicum annuum, including the cayenne, jalapeño, serrano, and Thai chili peppers.
Some of the hottest chili peppers include are cultivars of C. chinense, including the habanero, the Carolina reaper, and the ghost chili pepper, or bhut jolokia, though tabasco is a cultivar of C.
The intensity of the “heat” of chili peppers is commonly reported in Scoville heat units (SHU).
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the hottest chili pepper in the world is the Carolina Reaper, with a measure of 1,569,300 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), a measurement that quantifies spiciness via the concentration of capsaicinoids in the pepper. For reference, bell peppers have an SHU measure of 0, and Tabasco sauce measures in at around 2,500 SHU, making the Carolina Reaper very deserving of its name.
The substances that give chili peppers their intensity when ingested or applied topically are capsaicin and related compounds known as capsaicinoids.
Capsaicin is produced by the plant as a defense against mammalian predators and microbes, in particular a fusarium fungus carried by hemipteran insects that attack certain species of chili peppers, according to one study.
When peppers are consumed by mammals such as humans, capsaicin binds with pain receptors in the mouth and throat, potentially evoking pain via spinal relays to the brainstem and thalamus where heat and discomfort are perceived.
There are only 40 calories in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of chili pepper.
Chili pepper is a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper and Manganese and a good source of Dietary Fiber, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus.
The health benefits of chili pepper include improving cognitive function, contribute to red blood cell formation, reduce blood pressure and prevents cardiovascular disease, acts as natural pain reliever, clears nasal congestion, soothe intestinal diseases and disorders, boost immunity and maintaining healthy eyes.
Chili peppers can be eaten fresh or dried and are used to make chili powder and to flavour barbecue, hot curry, and other spicy sauces.
India is world’s largest producer and exporter of chili with 25% of world’s total production.
Chili Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in February on the grounds that hot food is most needed in a cold month.
While capsaicin may burn and irritate the flesh of mammals, birds are completely immune to its effects. As a result, birds are largely responsible for helping wild peppers spread by eating them and excreting the seeds.