Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Capsicum ( chili )

Chili ( also known as pepper, although peppers are more appropriately refer to Piper nigrum, a spice from the family Piperaceae ), or sometime spelled chilli, chile, is fruit of the Capsicum genus of nightshade family, Solanaceae.

Botanically speaking, fruits of chilis are berries. They are used widely in cooking, rather than consumed as a fruit. It is eaten raw or cooked, dried or powdered, as garnish or main ingredient, pickled or marinated, as a spice and at times as a medicine.

Chili originated from Central and South America. Archaeological evidence suggested it was domesticated some 6000 years ago. It was Christopher Columbus, the first European to encounter them in Caribbean, who called them ‘peppers’ because of their similarity in taste with the Old World black peppers. From South America, the Spaniard brought back the ‘peppers’ back to Europe, and subsequently find its way to Asia.

There are some 20 – 27 species of Capsicums. 5 of which are domesticated : Capsicum annum, Capsicum baccatum, Capsicum chinense, Capsicum frutescens, and Capsidum pubescens.

The burning sensation of chilies caused by capsaicin ( methyl vanillyl noenamide). Capsaicin is especially present in large quantities in the placental tissue ( seeds ), although substantial amount also present at the fleshy part of the fruit, depending on the species and variety of the fruit.

The Scoville scale measures the hotness of a chili pepper, as defined by the amount of capsaicin it contains. However Scoville Organoleptic Test is less precise compared to method used by ASTA's ( American Spice Trade Association ) High Performance Liquid Chromatography ( HPLC ).


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