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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.