|Green bird's eye, yellow madame Jeanette, and red cayenne peppers|
The substances that give chili peppers their intensity when ingested or applied topically are capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) and several related chemicals, collectively called capsaicinoids.
Chili peppers originated in the Americas. After the Columbian Exchange, many cultivars of chili pepper spread across the world, used in both food and medicine. Chilies were brought to Asia by Portuguese navigators during the 16th century.
India is the world's largest producer, consumer and exporter of chili peppers. Guntur in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh produces 30% of all the chilies produced in India. Andhra Pradesh as a whole contributes 75% of India's chili exports.
The five domesticated species of chili peppers are as follows:
|Thai pepper, similar in variety to the African birdseye|
* Capsicum frutescens, which includes malagueta, tabasco and Thai peppers, piri piri, and Malawian Kambuzi
* Capsicum chinense, which includes the hottest peppers such as the naga, habanero, Datil and Scotch bonnet
* Capsicum pubescens, which includes the South American rocoto peppers
* Capsicum baccatum, which includes the South American aji peppers
Though there are only a few commonly used species, there are many cultivars and methods of preparing chili peppers that have different names for culinary use. Green and red bell peppers, for example, are the same cultivar of C. annuum, immature peppers being green. In the same species are the jalapeño, the poblano (which when dried is referred to as ancho), New Mexico (which is also known as chile colorado), serrano, and other cultivars.
Peppers are commonly broken down into three groupings: bell peppers, sweet peppers, and hot peppers. Most popular pepper varieties are seen as falling into one of these categories or as a cross between them.
The substances that give chili peppers their intensity when ingested or applied topically are capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) and several related chemicals, collectively called capsaicinoids. Capsaicin is also the primary component in pepper spray, a less-than-lethal weapon.
When consumed, capsaicinoids bind with pain receptors in the mouth and throat that are responsible for sensing heat. Once activated by the capsaicinoids, these receptors send a message to the brain that the person has consumed something hot. The brain responds to the burning sensation by raising the heart rate, increasing perspiration and release of endorphins. A 2008 study reports that capsaicin alters how the body's cells use energy produced by hydrolysis of ATP. In the normal hydrolysis the SERCA protein uses this energy to move calcium ions into the sarcoplasmic reticulum. When capsaicin is present, it alters the conformation of the SERCA, and thus reduces the ion movement; as a result the ATP energy (which would have been used to pump the ions) is instead released as thermal energy.
The "heat" of chili peppers was historically measured in Scoville heat units (SHU), which is a measure of the dilution of an amount of chili extract added to sugar syrup before its heat becomes undetectable to a panel of tasters; the more it has to be diluted to be undetectable, the more powerful the variety and therefore the higher the rating. The modern commonplace method for quantitative analysis of SHU rating uses high-performance liquid chromatography to directly measure the capsaicinoid content of a chili pepper variety. Pure capsaicin is a hydrophobic, colorless, odorless, and crystalline-to-waxy solid at room temperature, and measures 16,000,000 SHU.
A wide range of intensity is found in commonly used peppers:
Bell pepper 0 SHU
New Mexico green chile 0 - 70,000 SHU
Jalapeño 2,500-8,000 SHU
Bird's eye chili 100,000-225,000 SHU
Habanero 100,000–350,000 SHU
Notably hot chili peppers
Some of the world's hottest chili peppers are:
USA Carolina Reaper 2.2M SHU
Trinidad Trinidad moruga scorpion 2.0M SHU
India Bhut jolokia 1.58M SHU
Trinidad Trinidad Scorpion Butch T 1.463M SHU
England Naga Viper 1.4M SHU
England Infinity chili 1.2M SHU
Chili pepper pods, which are berries, are used fresh or dried. Chilies are dried to preserve them for
|Red Bhut Jolokia and green bird's eye chilies|
Dried chilies are often ground into powders, although many Mexican dishes including variations on chiles rellenos use the entire chili. Dried whole chilies may be reconstituted before grinding to a paste. The chipotle is the smoked, dried, ripe jalapeño.
Many fresh chilies such as poblano have a tough outer skin that does not break down on cooking. Chilies are sometimes used whole or in large slices, by roasting, or other means of blistering or charring the skin, so as not to entirely cook the flesh beneath. When cooled, the skins will usually slip off easily.
The leaves of every species of Capsicum are edible. Though almost all other Solanaceous crops have toxins in their leaves, chili peppers do not. The leaves, which are mildly bitter and nowhere near as hot as the fruit, are cooked as greens in Filipino cuisine, where they are called dahon ng sili (literally "chili leaves"). They are used in the chicken soup tinola. In Korean cuisine, the leaves may be used in kimchi. In Japanese cuisine, the leaves are cooked as greens, and also cooked in tsukudani style for preservation.
Chili is by far the most important fruit in Bhutan. Local markets are never without chilies in different colors and sizes, in fresh and dried form. Bhutanese call this crop ema (in Dzongkha) or solo (in Sharchop). Chili is a staple fruit in Bhutan; the ema datsi recipe is entirely made of chili mixed with local cheese. Chili is also an important ingredient in almost all curries and food recipes in the country.
In India, most households always keep a stack of fresh hot green chilies at hand, and use them to flavor most curries and dry dishes. It is typically lightly fried with oil in the initial stages of preparation of the dish. Some states in India, such as Rajasthan, make entire dishes only by using spices and chilies.
Chilies are present in many cuisines. Some notable dishes other than the ones mentioned elsewhere in this article include:
* Arrabbiata sauce from Italy is a tomato-based sauce for pasta always including dried hot chilies.
* Paprikash from Hungary uses significant amounts of mild, ground, dried chilies, known as paprika, in a braised chicken dish.
* Chiles en nogada from the Puebla region of Mexico uses fresh mild chilies stuffed with meat and covered with a creamy nut-thickened sauce.
* Curry dishes usually contain fresh or dried chillies.
* Kung pao chicken (also spelled gong bao) from the Sichuan region of China uses small hot dried chilies briefly fried in oil to add spice to the oil then used for frying.
* Mole poblano from the city of Puebla in Mexico uses several varieties of dried chilies, nuts, spices, and fruits to produce a thick, dark sauce for poultry or other meats.
* Nam phrik are traditional Thai chili pastes and sauces, prepared with chopped fresh or dry chilies, and additional ingredients such as fish sauce, lime juice, and herbs, but also fruit, meat or seafood.
* 'Nduja, a more typical example of Italian spicy speciality, from the region of Calabria, is a soft, pork sausage made "hot" by the addition of the locally grown variety of jalapeño chili.
* Paprykarz szczeciński is a Polish fish paste with rice, onion, tomato concentrate, vegetable oil, chili pepper powder and other spices.
* Sambal belacan (pronounced "blachan") is a traditional Malay sauce made by frying a mixture of mainly pounded dried chillies and fermented prawn paste. It is customarily served with rice dishes and is especially popular when mixed with crunchy pan-roasted ikan bilis (sun-dried anchovies), when it is known as sambal ikan bilis.
* Som tam, a green papaya salad from Thai and Lao cuisine, traditionally has, as a key ingredient, a fistful of chopped fresh hot Thai chili, pounded in a mortar.
Fresh or dried chilies are often used to make hot sauce, a liquid condiment—usually bottled when commercially available—that adds spice to other dishes. Hot sauces are found in many cuisines including harissa from North Africa, chili oil from China (known as rāyu in Japan), and sriracha from Thailand.
Capsaicin is considered a safe and effective topical analgesic agent in the management of arthritis