[ Info: Chillin' with the Chili Peppers ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Company
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No, we don’t mean the Los Angeles-based musical group of the same name, but we do mean flavor and variety that’s equally red hot. We’re talking about those spicy, vibrantly colored fruits of a genus of plants in the nightshade family domesticated more than 5,000 years ago and cultivated today in garden patches throughout the world. We call them Capsicums; you call them peppers.
If peppers could have a family reunion, the gathering would include some familiar garden variety veggies like the potato, eggplant and tomato. They may stand out appearance-wise, but would still need name tags to be identified. That’s because there are more than 200 common names for these family cousins, but most of us know them as sweet bell, jalapeño, chipotle, cayenne, chili peppers, etc. The funny thing is, all of these varieties are chili peppers and they all have the same botanical name—Capsicum annuum.

a peppering of info on capsicum annuums

[ Chili Peppers: Pepper Groups ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

a. pick a pack of pepper

Peppers may not perform rock ‘n roll on stage, but they do belong to groups. The Cerasiforme group is dedicated to cherry peppers, also known as pimento peppers and named after “pimentão,” the Portuguese word for bell pepper. These are the little wedges found stuffed in the middle of green Spanish olives. The Conoides include yellow and red cone peppers, while the Fasciculatum group refers to red cone peppers also known as Thai peppers. The largest and most popular is the Longum group, which contains a variety of cayenne and chili peppers, namely jalapeños, serranos, and poblanos.

Rounding out these five botanical groups of pepper species is the Grossum group which is comprised of sweet bell peppers.

Also it is worth mentioning that though there is an (uneasily accepted) convention of using the spelling "chili pepper" when referring to this spice vs alternative "chile pepper"—please note "chili pepper" can also refer to the chili powder spice blend that typically includes Mexican oregano, cumin and garlic.

[ Chili Peppers: Scoville Heat Unit ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

b. some like it hotter

According to researchers at Penn State University, the more you enjoy the burn of spicy food the more real-life risks you’re willing to take.* Other than a willingness to jump from an airplane or to engage in other adrenaline-boosting activity, the only reliable method of measuring the “heat” of a bite of pepper in the 20th century was the Scoville Organoleptic Test. Although this may sound very scientific, it basically consists of a panel of five human taste-testers, none of them wearing parachutes. As you can imagine, variance in taste perception, taster fatigue and other problems arise.

For the most part, high-performance liquid chromatography is used today, which analyses the amount and type of capsaicinoids present in a sample. There are six different kinds of capsaicinoids, but capsaicin is the head honcho with a concentration of up to 69% and a rating of 16,000,000 Scoville heat units (HU). To put the latter into perspective, a bell pepper has a zero HU rating, Tabasco sauce is about 5,000 HU and habanero comes in at a cool 350,000 HU.

* Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). (2013, July 17). Personality may predict if you like spicy foods. ScienceDaily.
LastAccessed March 31, 2014

[ Chili Peppers: Pain Receptors and Pain Relief ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

c. no pain, no relief

The same substance that gives chili peppers their fiery heat is also used for self-defense and riot control, with immediate effects upon contact with skin, eyes and mucous membranes.

Ironically, however, capsaicin is also a key ingredient in many over-the-counter topical preparations formulated to relieve pain. It works like this: Capsaicin bonds to a protein that hangs out on the surface of pain-sensing neurons in the skin. The protein, called transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 or, thankfully, TRPV1 for short, is a calcium channel that “opens up” when body temperature is normal and above. But when capsaicin and TRPV1 meet, the channel opens at lower temperatures and sensory neurons fire off a neurotransmitter called substance P that tells our brain to experience a burning sensation on the skin in response to the application of cayenne cream. With repeated application, however, the neurons run out of substance P and pain-sensing activity in the targeted area ceases.

[ Chili Peppers: Capsicums Culture and Nutrition ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

d. cheers for capsicums

On May the 5th, shouts of “Ole’!” will compete with the clinking of salt-rimmed glasses of Margaritas in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. No doubt there will be generous portions of Tabasco-laced guacamole and spicy red and green salsa involved as well. Clearly, the stars of Mexican cuisine are green chiles and jalapeños, even though at least 100 of the 200 possible varieties of peppers are native to Mexico.

Cayenne is featured in Cajun and Creole cuisines, while paprika is central to European cookery.

Chili pepper is so popular in Thailand that tables in noodle shops are equipped with a small jar just like salt and pepper in the west.

The burst of color, flavor and thrill-seeking aside, there’s more to applaud about Capsicum—a single tablespoon is an excellent source of fiber, calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B-6 and a whopping 47% of your recommended daily vitamin A intake.

capsicum annuums

capsicum annuum recipes

Merluza à la Gallega
Burmese Chicken Curry
Chipotle & Cumin Aioli
Easy Paprika Chicken
Spicy White Chili

herbal spa
Cayenne Balm

from pinterest...