CHILI PEPPERS, OUR GIFT TO THE WORLD
Chili peppers have been a part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BC. There is archaeological evidence at sites located in southwestern Ecuador that chili peppers were domesticated more than 6000 years ago and is one of the first cultivated crops in the Americas. Chili peppers were domesticated in various parts of South and Central America.
Christopher Columbus was one of the first Europeans to encounter them in the Caribbean, and called them “peppers” because of their similarity in taste with the Old World black pepper. Chilies were cultivated around the globe after Columbus. Diego Álvarez Chanca, a physician on Columbus’ second voyage 1493, brought the first chili peppers to Spain, and wrote about their medicinal effects in 1494. From Mexico, at the time the Spanish colony that controlled commerce with Asia, chili peppers spread rapidly into the Philippines and then to India, China, Korea and Japan. They were incorporated into the local cuisines of Asia and Europe. Some countries like Hungary excelled in their cultivation and today produce the best paprika (dry peppers powder) in the world, a product of local varieties of Peppers.
Chilies peppers come in many sizes (tiny to double fist), shapes (long and thin, to round and thick), and colors (green, orange, yellow, red, purple, multi-colored). They are also classified according to their heat into sweet, mild, hot and extreme. The heat classification is done using the Scoville scale established in 1912 by an American chemist, this scale measures the content of capsaicin, this is the substance that produces the heat sensation in mammals, birds are not affected by it and that is why they spread the seeds of chilies. In the Scoville scale bell peppers and sweet chilies are close to zero, Jalapeños measure about 25,000, Tabasco pepper around 250,000, habaneros about 500,000 and the hottest pepper in the planet is the Bhut Jolokia from India measuring over 1,000,000 in the Scoville scale, this pepper is so hot that the Indian army manufactures a hand grenade that sprays an extract from this pepper, it has proven very successful at getting enemies out of enclosures such as caves.
Capsaicin has been proven as pain killer when used externally on the skin, particularly for joints pain such as arthritis. When ingested capsaicin accelerates the metabolism, it increases the heart’s rhythm and makes you feel hot and sweaty all over, this helps you burn some extra calories.
Growing chili peppers is very easy, you have to collect the seeds, carefully if it is a hot pepper, and dry them over a paper towel then spread them over good soil and cover them with a little more soil to avoid birds picking them. In a matter of weeks you will be harvesting chili peppers.