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All about “Chilli Pepper”

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The pepper is a more or less fleshy pod which contains many seeds in its interior cavity. The peppers grow on plants that can reach about 1.5 meters in height. There are almost 10 species of peppers that come in different shapes, sizes, colors and flavors.

Examples of varieties of peppers

Green peppers Red / copper / purple peppers Yellow peppers
Jalapeno Ancho Carribe
Serrano Cascadel / Cherry pepper Guero
Poblano Cayenne pepper  

Peppers produce and accumulate carotenoid pigments which are responsible for the characteristic yellow, orange and red color of peppers.

Scoville scale

In 1912, a pharmacologist by the name of Wilbur Scoville invented the Scoville scale which measures the strength of peppers by their content of capsaicin, a compound which stimulates nerve endings in the mucous membranes and the skin. The higher the capsaicin content, the more spicy the pepper.

Degree Appreciation Scoville units Example
0 neutral 0 – 100 Pepper
1 soft 100 – 500 Sweet paprika
2 warm 500 – 1,000 Anaheim pepper
3 statement 1,000 – 1,500 Ancho pepper
4 hot 1,500 – 2,500 Espelette pepper
5 strong 2,500 – 5,000 Chimayo pepper
6 ardent 5,000 – 15,000 Strong paprika
7 burning 15,000 – 30,000 Cascabel Chili
8 torrid 30,000 – 50,000 Cayenne pepper
9 volcanic 50,000 – 100,000 Tabasco pepper
10 explosive 100,000 and over Habanero pepper

Health profile

Belonging to the same family as the sweet pepper, the pepper is renowned for its very characteristic spicy taste. Indispensable ingredient of Mexican cuisine for centuries, you can enhance an infinity of dishes by adding a hint of fresh, dried, crushed or powdered chili.

Active ingredients and properties

A fire that does not go out with water …
The consumption of hot peppers can cause a strong feeling of heat and burning in the mouth, especially in the uninitiated. The first reflex is often to take a good sip of fresh water, but it turns out that this measure is not very effective. In fact, capsaicin, compound responsible for the pungent chili, is not soluble in water, but in materials fat 25 . It is therefore better to swallow a sip of milk, a piece of cheese or any other food that contains oil or fat!

Antioxidants . Antioxidants are compounds that protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals. These are very reactive molecules which are implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases linked to aging 1 . Hot peppers contain several types of antioxidants and as they mature, the concentration of several of these compounds increases , 3 . In a study analyzing several antioxidants from chilli, the compound with the strongest antioxidant activity was luteolin , followed by capsaicin and quercetin 4 .

  • Capsaicin . Capsaicin (or capsicin) and its derivatives are responsible for the pungent heat sensation of chili 5 , in addition to having antioxidant activity , 6 . In addition, studies in humans show that capsaicin in chili peppers causes an increase in basal metabolism after food intake 7-9 . It has also been shown in humans that capsaicin in chili peppers can increase the feeling of satiety 10 and decrease food intake 10-12. Combined with healthy lifestyle habits, these short-term effects of chili peppers can be an added bonus for people who monitor their body weight. Finally, although research has sometimes assumed the opposite, more and more studies agree that capsaicin would reveal properties in vitro and in animals that may contribute to the prevention of cancer 13-16 . However, it must be assessed to what extent these anticancer properties can be applied to the human body. (For more information on capsaicin, see the Cayenne fact sheet).
  • Flavonoids . Hot peppers contain several flavonoids, a large family of antioxidants: the main flavonoids of peppers include luteolin and quercetin 17 . Although many in vitro and animal studies show a protective effect against certain chronic diseases (eg cancer and cardiovascular disease), scientific literature reviews add that more studies in humans are needed to better understand the effect of flavonoids 18 , 19 .
  • Alpha-tocopherol . Some varieties of hot pepper are good sources of alpha-tocopherol, an antioxidant compound that is also a form of vitamin E . Indeed, several of these peppers contain more than 7 mg of alpha-tocopherol per 100 g serving 20 . For comparison, hazelnuts, a food considered very rich in alpha-tocopherol, contain 15 mg per 100 g serving. In addition to its antioxidant properties, alpha-tocopherol, according to some research data, could play a role in the prevention of certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases and Alzheimer’s disease. The data on this subject are, however, still mixed and call for more in-depth studies 21 .

Other properties

Is chilli antioxidant? Moderately (chili powder)  : the TAC index of fresh chilli is not known, but that of chili powder is 709 μmol per 1 tsp serving. (5 ml).
Is the pepper acidifying? The hot chili pepper has a PRAL index of -5.0 which makes it a rather alkalizing food
Does the pepper have a high glycemic load? The hot chili pepper has a glycemic load of 3.2 which makes it a food with low glycemic load.

Most important nutrients

See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols

 Vitamin C . The chili chili fort is an excellent source of vitamin C while the chili jalapeno is one source . The role that vitamin C plays in the body goes beyond its antioxidant properties; it also contributes to the health of bones, cartilage, teeth and gums. In addition, it protects against infections, promotes the absorption of iron from plants and accelerates healing.

 Iron . The chili chili strong is a source of iron for humans , the needs of man and woman are different. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It should be noted that the iron contained in food of vegetable origin is less absorbed by the organism than the iron contained in food of animal origin. However, the absorption of iron from plants is favored when consumed with certain nutrients, such as vitamin C.

 Manganese . The hot chili pepper is a source of manganese for women, the needs of men and women being different. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals .

 Copper . The chili hot pepper is a source of copper. As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals.

 Vitamin B6 . The pepper is a source of vitamin B6. Also called pyridoxine, vitamin B6 is part of coenzymes that participate in the metabolism of proteins and fatty acids as well as in the synthesis (manufacture) of neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It also contributes to the production of red blood cells and allows them to transport more oxygen. Pyridoxine is also necessary for the transformation of glycogen into glucose and it contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system. Finally, this vitamin plays a role in the formation of certain components of nerve cells and in the modulation of hormone receptors.

 Vitamin K . The chili chili strong is a source of vitamin K. Vitamin K is necessary for the synthesis (manufacture) of proteins that works to blood clotting (as much stimulation as inhibiting blood clotting). It also plays a role in bone formation. In addition to being found in food, vitamin K is manufactured by bacteria present in the intestine, hence the rarity of deficiencies in this vitamin.

What is a “portion” of chili worth?
Weight / volume Jalapeño, raw, 14 g (1 chili) Chili, red or green, raw, 45 g (1 chili)
Calories 4 18
Protein 0.2g 0.9 g
Carbohydrates 0.8g 4.3 g
Fat 0.1g 0.1g
Dietary fiber 0.4 g 0.7 g

Source  : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2005.

Hot pepper, harmless to the stomach?
Because of their spicy effect, it is sometimes recommended in case of stomach ulcer, to eliminate hot peppers from the diet in order to avoid exacerbating the pain. However, several studies seem to show that hot peppers would not cause additional stomach damage. Some even indicate that the capsaicin they contain could have a protective effect on the stomach wall 22-24. However, this would especially be the case for a reasonable amount of capsaicin, through the consumption of peppers. While waiting for other studies to further assess this phenomenon, it is preferable to be careful with capsules and other concentrates, which may contain much higher amounts of capsaicin. It is also wise to continue to respect personal tolerance, with some individuals less likely than others to consume hot peppers.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Some people with irritable bowel syndrome may experience intolerance to certain foods to varying degrees. Sometimes intolerance affects spices and strong condiments such as peppers. By limiting or avoiding these foods, people with this syndrome can alleviate digestive pain or discomfort. When the symptoms are mild or during so-called “remission” periods, it is sometimes possible to gradually reintegrate these foods, always respecting individual tolerance.

Gastroesophageal reflux
Several individuals suffer from gastroesophageal reflux, often recognizable by a rise in the contents of the stomach in the esophagus resulting in discomfort or a burning sensation. People with this disorder are advised to avoid foods that may cause reflux symptoms, including spices and strong condiments such as chili.

Chili over time

The term ”  pepper  “, which appeared in the French language around 1980 and which then meant “baume, épice”, comes from the Latin pigmentum . In 1664, Capsicum and its fruit were given this name .

The name “  pepper  ” (as in Cayenne pepper) to designate the pepper results from a confusion. When Christopher Columbus set foot in America, he (or rather his doctor) mistook the little spicy berries for grains of red pepper and thought he had just reached the Indies. The error was to be dispelled, but the name remained; ”  Pepper  ” is derived from it. On the other hand, the plant known as Jamaican chilli does not belong to the genus or the botanical family of chilli.

“  Chile  ”, which is also written “  chili  ” or “  chilli  ”, comes from nahuatl, language of the Aztecs, and indicates a variety of hot peppers belonging to the species Capsicum frutescens . However, in popular parlance, “chile”, “chili” or “chilli” can mean any type of chili pepper.

A bit of history

Pepper-eating clubs
Among them, hot pepper lovers from the United States call themselves chiliheads or chilehead , a word that is difficult to translate into French, but which evokes the enthusiasm that this spice arouses among our cousins ​​in the South. The chileheads have their specialty magazine, their fair, their industrial fair, their association, their club of the month, their radio broadcasts, their regional or national contests, and they have the choice between approximately 5,000 sauces commonly offered on the market.

Probably native to Bolivia and surrounding areas, the chili pepper quickly spread throughout the area that covers South America, Central America and Mexico. Birds are thought to have been its primary agent of dissemination. Indeed, they enjoy the advantage of being insensitive to its strong and irritating flavor. Originally grown for decorative purposes, the chili pepper was later used for culinary purposes.

According to vestiges found in a Tehuacan cave in Mexico, it is believed that the pepper has been domesticated for at least 7,000 years (9,000 according to some, which would make it the most anciently cultivated plant in America). However, well before this time, we consumed the fruits of one or the other of the twenty wild species native to America and, even today, the natives still harvest these small wild berries that they appreciate. as much as those of cultivated species. Through long selection work, the Aztecs obtained, from the piquin , ancestor of all peppers, a multitude of varieties with a wide range of sizes, shapes, colors, flavors and intensity.

Christopher Columbus will introduce the chili pepper to Europe after his first trip to America. The Spanish, relayed by the Portuguese, will then quickly spread it around the world. So much so that 50 years after the first fruits crossed the Atlantic, it was cultivated on all the coasts of Africa, India, tropical Asia, southwest of China, as well as in the Middle East, the Balkans, Central Europe and Italy.

Unlike the other members of the nightshade family (tomato, eggplant, potato), which inspired distrust when they were introduced, the chilli pepper will be immediately incorporated into local cuisines, largely because it is then a solution affordable replacement for pepper, an outrageously expensive spice that we have learned to appreciate the culinary virtues of which we can no longer do without.

The latest addition to spices, chili is today the one that is consumed the most in the world, although unevenly depending on the country. Thus, outside the Balkans and Turkey, Europeans will pay little attention to spicy varieties, too powerful for their sensitive palates, preferring sweet paprika and a few local varieties which they use sparingly. Hot pepper is most popular in hot regions – India, Thailand, Mexico, North Africa, South America, the Caribbean – probably because of its antibacterial properties and, paradoxically, because it provides a pleasant feeling of freshness once the effect of its “fire” is extinguished.

In recent years, North Americans have taken a real interest in chili, under the influence of the Spanish-speaking population of the southwest. The range of products offered is growing every year: sauces, jellies and jams, beer and vodka, sorbets, ice creams and fine chocolates. Sales of chili sauces are now supplanting those of ketchup, which has long been the most popular condiment on the continent.

Culinary uses

Choose well

Dry or whole peppers are often wrinkled which is normal. Choose well-colored peppers with a lustrous peel without spots or softened parts. If you buy dried peppers, they should have a good aroma. Do not hesitate to feel them.


– Wear rubber gloves when working with hot peppers and avoid touching your face, lips and eyes.

– As capsaicin is very volatile, the pepper can make you cry just by handling it.

– In case of contact with the skin, soap the mans and rinse with hot water.

– The seeds and white lower membranes are the most pungent. Avoid consuming these parts if you want to reduce the spicy taste of peppers. Alternatively, they can also be soaked in cold water with vinegar for an hour.

Culinary dishes

As their flavor develops during cooking, they should be added to meals in small doses.

Pro tip: Brown a hot pepper in the oil and then use this oil to cook. The flavor of the pepper will be there but in a less explosive way.

Pepper tasting
It is not only the virulence of the pepper that attracts the amateur. For him, this spice vegetable can be tasted like a good wine and comes in a multitude of flavors. Thus, once the fire effect has passed, it leaves a sweet, chocolatey, fruity or smoky flavor in the mouth depending on whether it is ancho , mulato , mirasol or chipotle . As for the habanero , the most spicy of all, it is also considered one of the tastiest, with a pleasant smoky apricot flavor. Note that although capsaicin (spicy principle of chili) is about eight times more powerful than piperine in pepper, it only inhibits the sour and bitter flavors, while the other inhibits them all indiscriminately.

Being more of a condiment than a vegetable, it is dried, marinated or cooked and mashed.

  • Chili con carne  : initially made from a mixture of peppers and coarsely ground beef with a knife, today it is made up of peppers, onions, red beans, tomatoes and ground beef, simmered together for a long time.
  • Salsa  : peppers, tomatoes, chopped onions, fresh coriander and garlic, all drizzled with lime. All fruits are also suitable for salsa. The salsa cruda is prepared with tomatillos, green tomatoes and onions in equal shares, and chili jalapeno , fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lemon. Chop all the ingredients.
  • In China, a mash of red peppers is prepared with salt and oil called öt , which is then added to many dishes.
  • In Italy, a salsa verde is prepared , made with garlic, breadcrumbs, hard-boiled eggs, anchovy paste, capers, olive oil, chilli, parsley and black pepper. This sauce enhances boiled, braised or grilled meats.
  • In jellies and jams, alone or with other fruits: spread the jelly on a piece of bread or cover a piece of Brie cheese and bake for 20 minutes at 175 ºC (350 ° F). Jams can be used to glaze grilled meat.
  • Stuff with cherry peppers or jalapeños with fromage blanc or feta, tuna mousse, anchovies, or a mixture of prosciutto and provolone. To keep them firm, marinate them first in a vinegar solution. They can be stored for a few days in the refrigerator in olive oil seasoned with fine herbs.
  • Sambals  : Indonesian-style sauces made with various fresh peppers mixed with soy sauce, dried coconut, shrimp paste, sliced ​​tomatoes and shrimp. Coarsely pound the ingredients together in a mortar.
  • Mole  : great classic of Mexican cuisine, it is a hot pepper sauce that accompanies poultry, usually turkey. There are dozens of variants, but the most famous is made of minced onions, bitter chocolate (or cocoa), tomatoes, spices (coriander, cinnamon, cloves), almonds, seeds sesame, raisins and three types of dried peppers, pasilla , ancho and mulato . You can replace these peppers with other varieties, and turkey with chicken.
  • Rellenos  : cook a meat in water, then pass it in a blender with onions, garlic, spices, salt, pepper and broth. Cook until thick, stuff an Anaheim or New Mexico-type chilli, bread and fry.
  • Pico de gallo  : this sauce traditionally accompanies fruit salads, but it can be served on fajitas, tacos, seafood or any other dish of its inspiration. It can also be added to scrambled eggs to make an authentic Mexicana huevos dish. Chop tomatoes, sweet onions, fresh coriander and serrano peppers. Add lemon (except when cooking with eggs), mix and salt.
  • Harissa  : grind peppers that have been soaked for half an hour in water and add garlic, coriander, caraway and cumin to them and sauce with olive oil. To serve, dilute a point in a ladle filled with the cooking liquid for meat and vegetables and sprinkle the couscous with it.
  • Replace the mustard with Espelette pepper in the mayonnaise preparation . Or prepare a rust to accompany the bouillabaisse by mashing together two small peppers, eight cloves of garlic, a few fish livers and a potato or a slice of bread soaked in the bouillabaisse and expressed in its juice. Assemble in mayonnaise with olive oil and salt.
  • Dare the chili in ice creams and sorbets . In small amounts, it has the effect of bringing out the flavor of the other ingredients, just like black pepper does in a dish of fresh strawberries. Try the mango sorbet, seasoned with marjoram and jalapeño .

Finally, chilli is found in various preparations:
– in curries , with or without coconut milk;
– in ceviche ;
– apples, plums and peppers go perfectly with a poultry stuffing ;
– in kim chee , a Korean condiment made from chili and pickled cabbage;
– in goulash  : this national dish from Hungary cannot do without paprika;
– in chocolate truffles or hot chocolate , as was commonly done in the time of the Aztecs.


The fresh peppers will keep for a week in the refrigerator in a paper bag put in the vegetable drawer.

Peppers of fine-fleshed varieties dry easily in the sun, in a dehydrator, or simply hang near a heat source.

We prefer to freeze those of thick flesh varieties. You can either roast and peel them first, or put them directly in the freezer on a metal sheet; once frozen, they will be enclosed in a hermetically sealed plastic bag. Consume within six months.

They can be marinated in vinegar brine.

Organic gardening

  • Sow seeds indoors 8 to 12 weeks before the last expected frost. Throughout germination, which can take 12 to 21 days, maintain the temperature between 21 and 26  o C.
  • Before transplanting, harden the plants by gradually exposing them to outside temperatures (this step should last 10 to 14 days). Plant them in a sunny place at a spacing of 30 to 45 cm in the row and 70 to 90 cm between the rows.
  • Fertilization  : put a good quantity of compost in the hole intended to receive the plant.
  • pH  : from 6 to 7.
  • Irrigation  : about 5 cm of water per week. Keep the soil always moist without soaking it, to minimize the risk of apical rot, a disease encouraged by irregular irrigation. Mulch the soil when it is well warmed up.

Protect the plants if the night temperatures drop below 15  o C.

Ecology and environment

Peppers have been successfully tested as repellents against barnacles, crustaceans that attach to and damage ship hulls, as well as mice gnawing underground electrical cables, and squirrels pilfering in feeders. seeds for birds. In the garden, it can ward off deer and rabbits. Various insecticide products are also produced which are harmless to the environment. In addition, among their many uses, paprika and oleoresin paprika are used to revive the color of flamingos as well as that of koi fish.

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