Chili peppers have been a part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BC. There is archaeological evidence at sites located in southwestern Ecuador that chili peppers were domesticated more than 6000 years ago and is one of the first cultivated crops in the Americas. Chili peppers were domesticated in various parts of South and Central America.

Christopher Columbus was one of the first Europeans to encounter them in the Caribbean, and called them "peppers" because of their similarity in taste with the Old World black pepper. Chilies were cultivated around the globe after Columbus. Diego Álvarez Chanca, a physician on Columbus' second voyage 1493, brought the first chili peppers to Spain, and wrote about their medicinal effects in 1494. From Mexico, at the time the Spanish colony that controlled commerce with Asia, chili peppers spread rapidly into the Philippines and then to India, China, Korea and Japan. They were incorporated into the local cuisines of Asia and Europe. Some countries like Hungary excelled in their cultivation and today produce the best paprika (dry peppers powder) in the world, a product of local varieties of Peppers.

Chilies peppers come in many sizes (tiny to double fist), shapes (long and thin, to round and thick), and colors (green, orange, yellow, red, purple, multi-colored). They are also classified according to their heat into sweet, mild, hot and extreme. The heat classification is done using the Scoville scale established in 1912 by an American chemist, this scale measures the content of capsaicin, this is the substance that produces the heat sensation in mammals, birds are not affected by it and that is why they spread the seeds of chilies. In the Scoville scale bell peppers and sweet chilies are close to zero, Jalapeños measure about 25,000, Tabasco pepper around 250,000, habaneros about 500,000 and the hottest pepper in the planet is the Bhut Jolokia from India measuring over 1,000,000 in the Scoville scale, this pepper is so hot that the Indian army manufactures a hand grenade that sprays an extract from this pepper, it has proven very successful at getting enemies out of enclosures such as caves.

Capsaicin has been proven as pain killer when used externally on the skin, particularly for joints pain such as arthritis. When ingested capsaicin accelerates the metabolism, it increases the heart's rhythm and makes you feel hot and sweaty all over, this helps you burn some extra calories.

Growing chili peppers is very easy, you have to collect the seeds, carefully if it is a hot pepper, and dry them over a paper towel then spread them over good soil and cover them with a little more soil to avoid birds picking them. In a matter of weeks you will be harvesting chili peppers.

The following links will show the variety of culinary chili peppers:
 Fresh Chilies,
 Dried Chilies,
 Sweet Peppers

ENGLISH NAME: Chili pepper, sweet pepper, bell pepper

LOCAL NAMES: Chile, Aji, Malagueta (Brasil)

PRODUCTS: Dried chilies, canned chilies, bottled hot sauces

NUTRIENTS: Chili pepper contain many useful vitamins but most important they are a good source of anti-oxidants to slow aging and the contain capsaicin that accelerates human metabolism and burns extra calories. For a detailed nutritional analysis follow the link: Chili pepper's nutrients

PROCESSING: Peppers are deseeded according to their size and shape. Small ones are better cleaned under a bowl of water, you first remove the stem, submerge it in the water, pierce it with your fingers and scrape the seeds out, these will stay in the water and the peppers can be accumulated in a dry bowl for further cutting. For large peppers you first cut off the top and push out the green stem, then with the knife you cut out the seeded heart and veins, this hollowed pepper can be accumulated for further cutting. For hot peppers the same principles apply but you must use gloves.

STORING: Fresh peppers must be refrigerated for future use, however they usually do not last more than 2 weeks. An option is to dry them by placing them in a warm, dry place, somewhere under the sun can be such a place, overnight in an oven at a minimum temperature can also be used. Another option is to turn the peppers in to a paste to be used as needed in recipes, for this you deseed the pepper then cook them no more than 5 minutes in boiling water, then blend them into paste combining them with salt, a little garlic and just enough oil to allow liquefying them in a blender, the paste should be kept in a glass jar in a cool place.

HAM WRAPPED PEPPERS: Prepare a stuffing mixture using 1 cup of a cheese that will not melt, such as cottage cheese, ricotta, or one local fresh white cheese (queso prensado, queso del pais), add 4 tablespoons of parmesan cheese, a pinch of black pepper and nutmeg, add 1/2 cup of chopped fresh basil, mix well all ingredients and add salt if needed. Take 12 sweet peppers about the size and shape of your middle finger, cut the top off and scrape out the seeds and veins to hollow the peppers; stuff them with the cheese mixture; cut some strips of ham, wrap the peppers in the strips and secure them with a toothpick, brush with a little olive oil and grill or bake in 400F oven until ham starts cooking and turns slightly golden, about 20 minutes. For extra flavor you can use a cured or smoked ham.

CHILI STUFFED GREEN PEPPERS: take 5 large green, cut the top off, carefully remove the seeds and veins to avoid piercing the skin; stuff them with a thick chili stew, from a can if necessary; place in a deep baking dish, cover and bake at 350F for 25 minutes; spray with grated cheddar cheese or other melting cheese, some chopped fresh cilantro and serve.

RED PEPPER SOUP: take 4 red peppers, remove stem and cut in half to deseed and devein; char the skin of the red peppers over a grill, under a broiler or on stove, while hot place in plastic bag to cool, it will help to remove the charred skin; once cooled remove as much skin as possible, coarsely chop and reserve; in 4 cups of water boil a peeled and coarsely cut carrot until tender; cut a cross on top of 3 ripe plum tomatoes and boil in the water for 2 minutes, let cool and remove skin; in 1/4 cup of oil heat 1 small onion and 2 cloves of garlic coarsely chopped; when onion and garlic release aroma add red peppers and stir to heat thoroughly, turn off heat and proceed to blend with boiled water, carrots and tomatoes, you may have to do it in batches, return to pot, reheat, add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste and to serve spray some chopped fresh basil.

BACON WRAPPED JALAPEÑOS: Take 20 jalapeño chilies, cut then im half lengthwise, scoop out the seed, veins and reserve; take 1 package (0.5 Kg, 1 Lb) of sliced bacon and cut in thirds, reserve; mix thoroughly 2 packages (0.25 Kg, 8 Oz) of softened cream cheese with 1 tablespoon of oregano, 1 teaspoon each of blackpepper and hot sauce; stuff all jalapeño halves with the cream cheese mixture, wrap snugly with piece of bacon and secure with toothpick; bake over baking sheet with a rack at 375F for 25 minutes. Be warned these things are addictive.

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