The Chilli was brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus in 1492, after discovering them in the West Indies. Spain did not immediately take to Chillies, and they remained largely unknown in Spanish cuisine. They did however introduce them to Portugal. The Portuguese recognised Chillies as having great commercial potential and began growing and selling them
From there, Chillies rapidly spread around the world to become one of the world's favourite spices . About a third of the world’s population eat Chillies daily. In some countries, not to eat at least one meal with Chillies is unheard of.
Indeed, in some parts of the globe, Chillies are eaten in some form, whether as a powder , fresh or as a vegetable, with just about every meal ( including breakfast). Cooking with Chillies is so ingrained in some countries' cultures that cooking without time cannot be contemplated. It is part of their national identity and who they are
Twenty interesting facts
It follows that something so popular will have a lot of intrigue, legend, and history associated with it. The following interesting facts about Chillies are only a start to some of the fascinating things associated with this wonderful gift from nature.
- Jalapenos, popular in Mexican cuisine, take their name from Jalapa - the capital city of Vera Cruz in Mexico.
- Ed Curry, the official record holder for the world's hottest Chilli - Carolina reaper - claims to have developed a Chilli far hotter. Pepper X as it is called, has a Scoville heat rating of 3.18 million units
- The original Scoville method for classifying the heat of chillies was a subjective test based on the opinion of a panel of specially trained tasters. The test involved dilution with water until no taste of Chilli could be detected. Professor Wilber Schofeild invented this method of testing the potency of Chillies
- Unofficially, the world’s second hottest Chilli, the Dragons Breath, was accidentally discovered by Welsh farmer – Mike Smith of Denbighshire. It is so hot that experts claim that anyone eating a whole Chilli would be at risk of death from anaphylactic shock.
- The most expensive Chilli is the Aji Charapita, which costs a minimum of $25000 per kilogram.
- According to the Guinness book of records, the heaviest Chilli weighed in at a whopping 0.460 kg (16.22 ounces) in Halesowen, United Kingdom in September 2020. It was grown by Paul Davies
- Capsaicin, the active ingredient in Chillies that causes the heat, is used to make pepper sprays used by some police forces for riot control and self-defence. It causes tears, pain, and temporary blindness.
- Capsaicin is used as a topical local anaesthetic to control pain.
- 'There are more than 400 varieties of chillies.
- The reason that chillies are called hot peppers or Chili peppers in certain parts of the world is that Christopher Columbus mistook them for a type of black pepper.
- Before Chillies were introduced to India by the Portuguese, Indian chefs mainly used black pepper and other spices to flavour their cooking.
- Birds are immune to the burning effects of Chillies. As a result, they help to spread the growth of wild Chilli plants by eating and excreting the seeds.
- Chillies have their origin in South America. They are not native to India, China or Africa, although now widely grown in those parts of the world.
- The heat level of any specific variety of chilli can vary substantially due to growing conditions.
- In certain parts of Africa and India, wild elephants are kept at bay by spreading Chillies on fences.
- Chillies have many health benefits, including uses in clearing congestion, weight loss, and controlling blood sugar levels.
- Chillies combine particularly well with chocolate. The chocolate that we know today originated from a mixture of crushed cocoa beans, chilli and water that was a favourite beverage of the Mayans and Aztecs.
- Phall, a British Asian curry dish, is one of the hottest forms of curry regularly available in the UK. It is made by using Scotch Bonnet or Habanero Chillies, but a version using the Bhut Jolokia or Ghost pepper was made by the Brick Lane restaurant in Manhattan.
- Chillies can be found in various colours, including brown, purple, orange and black.
- Commercially available bottled hot sauce first appeared in the USA in 1807.
There are certainly more interesting facts about Chillies. It is a fascinating subject that will never cease to amaze