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Chili Peppers From A to Z: 26 things You Didn't Know

Chili Peppers From A to Z: 26 things You Didn't Know

All about chili pepper: history, origins, recipes and many more oddities. Find out more on Fine Dining Lovers!

By FDL on

Acne. Before trying some at the dinner table, why not try using some face cream made from chilies: they have miraculous properties when used to combat acne and other minor skin imperfections

Bhutan. Chilies are called ‘emo’ or ‘solo’ in this little-known country, and represent the most important part of many of its local dishes, and indeed its overall diet. The national dish is called ‘emadatsi’, and is a kind of cheese sauce packed full of chilies.

Christopher Columbus. Chilies have played a part in the human diet since as early as 7500 BC, when the first examples of their use crop up America. Christopher Columbus found them in the Caribbean, decided to name them ‘peppers’, and then brought them back to Europe.

Domesticated species. Amongst edible varieties, there are 5 great families of peppers. The most common are Capsicum annuum, the family which includes cayenne, bell and wax peppers. The spiciest varieties can be found amongst members of the Capiscum chinense family. 

Elephants. In order to protect them from these giant pachyderms, plantations are often sprayed with a liquid based on chili peppers. The elephants simply turn tail when they get so much as a distant whiff of this stinging aroma.

Fresh chilies. These are best for cooking: their tough skin means that they don’t disintegrate when cooked. Poblano chilies are most famous for their ability to retain their form when heated up.

Growing tips. Chilies can also be grown in your garden, or on the balcony: they just need sun, a lot of heat, water every day and a high level of humidity

Hungary. In Hungary, chilies form part of the national spice. Paprika, which is made from chili seeds and dry fruit ground up together, is the basis of goulash, a recipe which mixes meat and spices, and which is famous throughout Eastern Europe. 

Intensity. Chilies are one of the most intense taste sensations we can enjoy: when capsaicin, the primary substance found in chilies, is ingested, the sensory nerves of the mouth and throat send a message to the brain, and heart rate and sweating automatically increase, along with our level of endorphins

Jalapeno. Whether orange or green, the Jalapeno is the king of Mexican cooking. It takes its name from Jalapa, the capital of the Mexican state of Veracruz

Karate. Japanese samurai used chili peppers in order to reduce the amount of fear they felt: eating them as part of a ritual meal before battles made them feel invincible. Even those who practice karate often eat them before a fight. 

Lasse Hallström. He directed the 2000 film Chocolat, starring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche: here hot chocolate infused with peppers, a potent aphrodisiac, reawakens the passions of a French farmer.

Medicine. Chili pepper extract is a medicinal marvel: it combats prostate cancer, herpes and diabetes, and is a natural painkiller, helping those suffering from arthritis and headaches. It also speeds up our metabolism.

Naga viper. One of the spiciest chilies is the Naga Viper, a genetically modified mix of the most powerful varieties, created in an English greenhouse. When cooked at the local pub, those who dare to try it have to sign a waiver first. Its creator takes no responsibility for any damaged caused to the taste buds. And no-one has ever managed to finish a plate. 

Origin. Mexico was home to the first chili peppers, and today 90% of all chilies cultivated and consumed the world over are of Mexican origin: from those used in Indian curries to Hungarian paprika, and in favorite recipes based on the red fruit from China to the Mediterranean.

Puttanesca sauce. This Italian sauce, a glutton’s favorite, is made from tomatoes, garlic, chilies, olive oil and sometimes anchovies, and is used to make a truly tasty Italian pasta dish. Putting it on spaghetti is mandatory.

Quantity. Amongst the world’s most common foods by quantity, chilies come second only to salt. In addition to the huge quantities of it consumed, it also wins the prize for highest quantity of vitamin C - higher than any other edible vegetable.

Red Hot Chili Peppers. This LA rock band took their name from the red spice. The singer and leader of the group, in his autobiography, explains the link with chili peppers in this way: “If, to you, chili peppers are a feeling, a sensation or a form of energy, then you’ve guessed right.”

Spelling. It’s called a chili, but there’s no link to the nation Chile. Its spelling varies amongst different nations: it can be ‘chile’, ‘chilli’ or ‘chillie’, but it’s also called ‘piment’ in France, ‘piemento’ in Spain, and ‘peperoncino’ in Italy. 

Trinidad scorpion. In Spring 2011, this took the title of the world’s hottest chiliThe Trinidad Scorpion Butch T was created in Australia by the grower who lent it his name: Butch Taylor. Today he’s waiting to claim his place in the Guinness Book of World Records. It is practically impossible to put one in your mouth

Uses. A king in the worlds of food, medicine and beauty treatments, chilies form the base of massage oils and anti-cellulite creams, and its powder makes great anti-ageing masks and preparations which can enliven dull hair

Vasodilator. Add a pinch of chili pepper to your dinner to ensure a sexy evening. Amongst its other properties, it also acts as a vasodilator, increasing blood flow, lowering inhibitions and improving male sexual performance

Weapon. Indian scientists have been working on special grenades which can be packed with chili pepper in order to harm the enemy, and other weapons already exist featuring ammo based on a the spice, from pistols to the pepper sprays used by the police. 

Xmas tree. A Mexican classic: instead of colored baubles, lights and tinsel, Christmas trees here are turned red, orange and green by the many chilies hung on their branches. 

Yellow. Chilies don’t always have to be an intense red or green: there are many yellow varieties, including the ‘hot lemon’, which takes its name from the yellowest fruit of all. Chilies of this color are great when fried or used to make jellies

Zulu. Zulu zulu peri peri is the name of very spicy African sauce. Containing no preservatives, but packed full of chilies and tomatoes, in Africa its recipe has been handed down from generation to generation for over 400 years.

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