Sunday, October 28, 2007

Capsacins, Columbus, and Jalapenos

Gardenista got me thinking about my Chilli plants growing on the windowsill in the kitchen.
I have five plants growing, and some Seeds from the store bought chilli peppers shown are germinating in a pot.
I'm growing them for the ornamental beauty of the plant, and for usage in cooking. Stir fry dishes and Proper Texan Chili con carne.
You can also make salsa's with the Chilli peppers once they grow.
Here in the UK they are generally grown indoors or in greenhouses where they have protection from the frosts and cold nights.
This plant is from the Genus Capsicum, and the family Solanaceae, the same as Night shade, Nicotiana, Tomatos plants, and Potatoes etc.
My research says they were grown for human consumption since 7500 BC in the Americas. Thats about 9500 years.
As with many plants they were brought away from their native homes with Explorers, and traders. Christopher Columbus was the first European who encountered them describing them as peppers (because the fruit reminded him of Black pepper from back home), and taking them back with him. Soon after it is said that the Portuguese traders took them to the Philipines where they spread into Asian culture and cooking.
The Worlds biggest producer of Chilli peppers now is India. They are used ornamentally too and used to ward off evil spirits at the threshold of homes.
Some Chillis are that strong that you need gloves to handle them without getting blisters. I have been trying them to give food extra hotness.
Apparently the burning sensation in your mouth stimulates saliva, and endorphins which make you happy. In hot countrys the heat of the chilli cools you down in the hot environment.
In India they believe the smaller the chilli the hotter it will be. They are the most commonly eaten vegetable eaten by the population.
The USA has made the Scorville scale about the hotness of the Chillis. The chemicals in the chillis are Capcaisin which causes the burning sensation. Habaneros are measured at 300,000 units. My Jalapeno plants are between 3000-6000 units. Green bell peppers are 0 units, as they have no capcaisin in them.
The Store bought Chilli peppers are not overly hot, but burn slightly after eating them. I left the seeds in to see if it increased the burn!
I cut three in half and scooped the seeds out, dried them out, then planted them in a pot to see if i could grow some plants from store acquired seeds. They are germinating now. I will blog my results here.
I love the mixture of Plants, history, trade routes, and absorbtion into many cultures across the world. The Ancient peoples were already crossing plants for consumption, maybe picking the most healthy plants with the hottest fruits. These were the parents of all the Chilli plants grown now.
The seeds are well designed to travel either within the fruit, or dried out, germinating when the conditions are right. Each plant then adapted to its local conditions. Genetics then develops new plants from the original 7500 BC plants.
From the Americas, to Europe, To Asia, and now growing in pots indoors all over the world by gardeners!
I love the story of the humble Chilli plant.

No comments: