Chilli is the dried ripe fruit of the genus Capsicum. Capsicum annuum is an annual sub –shrub, the flowers of which are borne singly and fruits usually pendent, which provide red peppers, cayenne, paprika and chillies and sweet pepper (bell pepper) a mild form with large inflated fruits.
Capsicum frutescence is a perennial chilly with small sized pods which are highly pungent. It is commonly known as ‘bird chilly’ and ‘Tabasco’.
Origin and Distribution
Chilly is reported to be a native of South America and is widely distributed in all tropical and sub tropical countries.
Chillies are the hot fruits of a range of capsicum species that originally came from the warm northern regions of South America. In the past 500 years they have been traded across the warm areas of the globe, and today chillies are an integral ingredient in many different cuisines around the world.
There are only four species of capsicum from which all of the modern chilli cultivars have been developed. The deciding factor when choosing a cultivar to grow is the intensity of heat that is produced when they are used in cooking, and it is for this reason that a heat scale from 1 to 10 has been developed to illustrate this to consumers. At the low end of the scale Capsicum annum ‘Anaheim’ or ‘New Mexico’ has a rating of 1 and at the hot end of the scale with a rating of 10 from Cuba is Capsicum chinense ‘Habanero’ also known as Scotch Bonnet or Bahama Mama. Besides the hotness, chillies also impart a unique flavour to food.
Chillies thrive in alkaline soils, with the exception ofCapsicum chinense ‘Rocotillo’, which has a rating of 8 and likes acidic soil, but chillies are generally very adaptable to a variety of soil types. They are also ideal for growing in containers
Chillies are grown in full sun, but in Adelaide the climate is very harsh, and the sun can be fierce. Growing them under trees, in the shade house and even in a glasshouse has proved to be successful. Chillies are shallow-rooted plants and when they are grown in a container their roots will remain warmer in winter than if they were grown in the ground
Dry chilly is extensively used as spice in curried dishes. It is also used as an ingredient in curry powder and in seasonings. Bird chilly is used in making hot sauces as pepper sauce and Tabsco sauce.
Paprika, Bydagi chilly, Warangal chapatta and similar high colour less pungent varieties are widely used for colour extraction. This colour is highly popular among food and beverage processors for its use as a colourant, since this being a ‘natural plant colour’.
As a medicine it is used as an counter irritant in Lumbago, Neuralgia, and Rheumatic disorders. Capsicum has a tonic and carminative action. Taken inordinately it may cause gastro-enteritis. The enzyme isolated from chilly is used in the treatment of certain type of cancers. Oleoresin capsicum is used in pain balms and vaporubs. Dehydrated green chilly is a good source of vitamin ‘c’.