The chili pepper, or more simply just "chili", is the fruit of the plant Capsicum from the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The name, which is spelt differently in many regions (chili, chile or chilli), comes from Nahuatl via the Spanish word chile. These terms usually refer to the smaller, hotter types of capsicum; the mild larger types are called bell pepper (simply pepper in Britain and Ireland or capsicum in Australasia).***********Chili peppers and their various cultivars originate in the Americas; they are now grown around the world because they are widely used as spices or vegetables in cuisine, and as medicine.***********Chili peppers have been a part of the human diet in the Americas since about 7500 BC. They were domesticated there between 5200 and 3400 BC, one of the first cultivated crops in the Americas. Chili peppers are thought to have been domesticated at least five times by prehistoric peoples in different parts of South, Central and North America, from Peru in the south to Mexico in the north and parts of Colorado and New Mexico (Ancient Pueblo Peoples).******************Christopher Columbus was one of the first Europeans to encounter them (in the Caribbean), and called them "peppers" because of their similarity in taste (though not in appearance) with the Old World peppers of the Piper genus. Columbus was keen to prove (incorrectly) that he had in fact opened a new direct nautical route to Asia, contrary to reality and the expert consensus of the time, and it has been speculated that he was therefore inclined to denote these new substances "pepper" in order to associate them with the known Asian spice.***********Diego Álvarez Chanca, a physician on Columbus' second voyage to the West Indies in 1493, brought the first chili peppers to Spain, and first 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 with the aid of European sailors. The new spice was quickly incorporated into the local cuisines.
An alternate sequence for chili pepper's spread has the Portuguese picking up the pepper from Spain, and thence to India, as described by Lizzie Collingham in her book Curry.The evidence provided is that the chili pepper figures heavily in the cuisine of the Goan region of India, which was the site of a Portuguese colony (e.g. Vindaloo, an Indian interpretation of a Portuguese dish). Collingham also describes the journey of chili peppers from India, through Central Asia and Turkey, to Hungary, where it became the national spice in the form of paprika.**********The most common species of chile peppers are:
* Capsicum annuum, which includes many common varieties such as bell peppers, paprika, jalapeños, and the chiltepin
* Capsicum frutescens, which includes the cayenne and tabasco peppers
* Capsicum chinense, which includes the hottest peppers such as the naga, habanero and Scotch bonnet
* Capsicum pubescens, which includes the South American rocoto peppers
* Capsicum baccatum, which includes the South American aji peppers
.**************Though there are only a few commonly used species, there are many cultivars and methods of preparing chile peppers that have different common names for culinary use. Green and red bell peppers, for example, are the same cultivar of C. annuum, the green ones being immature. In the same species are the jalapeño, the poblano, ancho (which is a dried poblano), New Mexico(which is also known as chile colorado), Anaheim, Serrano, and other cultivars. Jamaicans, Scotch bonnets, and habaneros are common varieties of C. chinense. The species C. frutescens appears as chilies de arbol, aji, pequin, tabasco, cayenne, cherry peppers, malagueta and others.
Peppers are commonly broken down into three groupings; bell peppers, sweet peppers, and hot peppers. Most popular pepper varieties are seen as falling into one of these categories, or as a cross between them.****************The substances that gives chile peppers their heat is capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) and several related chemicals, collectively called capsaicinoids. Capsaicin is the primary ingredient in pepper spray. The "heat" of chile peppers is measured in Scoville units (SHU). Bell peppers rank at 0 (SHU), jalapeños at 3,000–6,000 SHU, and habaneros at 300,000 SHU. The record for the hottest chili pepper is assigned by the Guinness Book of Records to the Red Savina Habanero, measuring 577,000 SHU; however the Dorset Naga pepper is claimed to be over three times as hot as the Red Savina pepper, at 970,000 SHU.
However, a recent report was made of a pepper from India called the Naga Jolokia, measuring at 855,000 SHU. Both the Red Savina and the Naga Jolokia claims are disputed as to their validity, and lack independent verification. In April 2006, it was reported that the Dorset Naga pepper, a variety of the Naga Jolokia pepper cultivated exclusively by the Peppers by Post company in Dorset, England, had been measured at 923,000 SHU by a lab used by the American Spice Trade Association. For reference, pure capsaicin rates at 15,000,000-16,000,000 SHU. Subsequently BBC “Gardeners’ World” has recorded an even higher level for the Dorset Naga. As part of its 2006 programming, it ran a chili trial looking at several varieties. Heat levels were tested in a British laboratory and the Dorset Naga came in at almost 1.6 million SHU. The growers are currently waiting for details of the testing before being confident with this result.********The chili has a long association with Mexican cuisine as later adapted into Tex-Mex cuisine. Although unknown in Asia until Europeans introduced it there, chili has also become a part of the Korean, Indian, Indonesian, Szechuan, Thai and other cooking traditions. Its popularity has seen it adopted into many cuisines of the World.*************The fruit is eaten cooked or raw for its fiery hot flavour which is concentrated along the top of the pod. The stem end of the pod has glands which produce the capsaicin, which then flows down through the pod. The white pith, that surrounds the seeds, contains the highest concentrations of capsaicin. Removing the seeds and inner membranes is thus effective at reducing the heat of a pod.
Chile powder is a spice made of the dried ground chilies, usually of the Mexican chile ancho variety, but with small amounts of cayenne added for heat, while chili powder is composed of dried ground chili peppers, cumin, garlic and oregano. The bottled hot sauce Tabasco sauce is made from Tabasco chilies, similar to cayenne, which may also be fermented. Chipotles are dry, smoked red (ripe) jalapeños.
Indian cooking has multiple uses for chillies, from snacks like bajji where the chilies are dipped in batter and fried to the infamously hot vindaloo. Chillies are also dried and roasted and salted for later use as a side dish for rice varieties like vadam (a kind of pappad). In Turkish or Ottoman cuisine, chilies are widely used where it is known as Kirmizi Biber (Red Pepper) or Aci Biber (Hot Pepper). Sambal is dipping sauce made from chili peppers with many other ingredients such as garlic, onion, shallots, salt, vinegar and sugar, which is very popular in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.******************The leaves of the chili pepper plant, which are mildly bitter, are cooked as greens in Filipino cuisine, where they are called dahon ng sili (literally "chili leaves"). They are often used in the chicken soup dish known as tinola.In Korean cuisine, the leaves are also used to produce chili pepper leaf kimchi.