Chiles (Jalapeño, Serrano, Habanero, Chiltipin, Piquin, Ancho, Anaheim, Sweet Bell, Tabasco, Cobra, Chile Arbol)
|Chili peppers, despite their fiery “hotness” are one of very popular spices known for medicinal and health benefiting properties. The chili is actually a fruit pod from the plant belonging to the nightshade family of solanaceae, of the genus; capsicum.h). Chili peppers journeyed from India, through Central Asia and Turkey, to Hungary, where it became the national spice in the form of paprika.
An alternate, although not so plausible account (no obvious correlation between its dissemination in Asia and Spanish presence or trade routes), defended mostly by Spanish historians was that from Mexico, at the time a Spanish colony, chili peppers spread into their other colony the Philippines and from there to India, China, Indonesia, Korea and Japan.
The chilli plant is native to Central American region where it was used as spicy ingredient in Mexican cuisines for several thousand years. It was introduced to the rest of the world by Spanish and Portuguese explorers during 16th and 17th centuries and now grown widely in many parts of the world as an important commercial crop.
Chilli plant is a perennial small shrub with woody stem growing up to a meter height and bears white colored flowers. The pods are very variable in size, shape, color, and pungency. Depending on the cultivar type, they range from the mild, fleshy, Mexican bell peppers to the tiny, fiery, finger-like chili peppers, commonly grown in Indian subcontinent. The hotness of chili is measured in “Scoville heat units” (SHU). On the Scoville scale, a sweet bell pepper scores 0, a jalapeño pepper around 2,500-4,000 and a Mexican habañeros 200,000 to 500,000.
Interiorly, each fruit features numerous tiny, white, or cream colored, circular and flat seeds. The seeds are actually clinging on either side to central white placenta.
To harvest, chilies can be picked up while they are green or when they reach complete maturity and dried in the plant. Usually, the fruits are picked up by hand when they are matured and turned red. They are then left to dry which causes them to shrivel. Chilies have strong spicy taste that comes to them from the active alkaloid compounds capsaicin, capsanthin and capsorubin.