Brief Summary

provided by EOL authors
Capsicum, the peppers, is a genus of around 20 species of perennial herbaceous plants in the Solanaceae (nightshade family), which originated in Central and South America and the Caribbean and was domesticated over 5,000 years ago. Two species, C. annuum and C. frutescens, have been developed into numerous varieties that are now cultivated around the world for sweet and hot varieties of green and red bell peppers and chili peppers, that in dried form are one of the world’s most widely used spices. Capsicum cultivars include regionally developed varieties including the paprika and pimento peppers (varieties of C. annuum), used in the Mediterranean (and typical of Hungarian goulash), and various spicy peppers, including cayenne, jalapenos, ancho (poblano), and numerous others (varieties of C. annuum and C. frutescens) used in Mexican, Indian, and Asian cooking. Lesser known species are cultivated or grow wild in the Andes, including C. pubescens (rocoto), C. baccatum (Andean ají), and C. cardenasii and C. eximium (ulupicas). Capsicum plants, which are perennial but often cultivated as annuals in temperate climates, are many-branched plants, often shrubby in appearance (although not true shrubs because they are not woody), with simple, alternate, oval to elliptical leaves with smooth margins (entire). The flowers, which are borne singly or in small clusters in the axils (where leaves join stems) are campanulate (bell-shaped), white or greenish, often with 5 lobes, containing 5 bluish stamens. The fruits are many-seeded berries--pod-like, but with no sutures—that vary considerably in size and shape, ripening to green, yellow, orange, red, or purple. Peppers, which are high in vitamins A and C are used fresh, cooked, or dried in an enormous variety of dishes characteristic of different regional cuisines. For example, paprika and pimiento peppers are used in the Mediterranean dishes, including dishes such as the Italian caponata (a salad prepared from cooked eggplant and peppers), the French ratatouille (an eggplant and pepper dish), Spanish gazpacho (a soup of blended fresh tomatos and peppers), and Hungarian goulash (a meat stew seasoned with paprika). Numerous varieties of spicy peppers, including cayenne, jalapenos, ancho (poblano), are used in Mexican, Indian, and Asian cooking. Capsicum annuum and other Capisicum species produce capsaicin, an intense skin and eye irritant, that is used in pepper sprays sold for self-defense. However, capsaicin also has numerous medical uses, including topical pain relief for muscle soreness, shingles, skin irritations, and rheumatism, and as an anti-inflammatory. Recent medical research has also documented capsaicin’s antimicrobial and antifungal activity, and on-going studies are exploring its use in cancer treatment. Although known as peppers, Capsicum species are not related to the spice known as black pepper (Piper nigrum, in the Piperaceae), which was prominent in the spice trade of the Middle Ages, and for which Christopher Columbus may have been searching when he brought Capsicum to Europe and referred to it by the same common name. (Bailey et al. 1976, Chowdhury et al. 1996, Cichewicza and Thorpe 1996, Hedrick 1919, NAS 1989, van Wyk 2005, Wikipedia 2012.)
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Brief Summary

provided by EOL staff

Capsicums (chillies and sweet peppers) are a vital part of many cuisines all over the world. They are the essence of spicy Mexican chilli salsa, Hungarian goulash, and most Asian curries. While native only to South America, capsicums are now one of the most widely cultivated crops worldwide.

Many English speakers call these plants peppers, but this can be confusing because black pepper is a different plant altogether. The confusion may have arisen when capsicums were first taken to Asia and began to replace black pepper as a spicy ingredient in food. The term capsicum may be used to refer to both the small spicy ones (usually called chillies), and the large, sweet, non-spicy ones (often called peppers).

Today, there are thousands of different varieties of capsicum including colourful ornamental ones, sweet salad peppers, and spicy blow-your-head-off chillies. Many botanists believe the origins of all these different types can be traced back to about five of the 30 or so species of Capsicum. These species can still be found growing wild in various locations in South America, with the highest species diversity in Brazil. Surprisingly, only five of these species have been domesticated. So the thousands of varieties we know today can be traced back to one of these five species.

People across the Americas have been eating and cultivating capsicums for 6000 years. Chillies and peppers were first domesticated in the Americas and they are one of the earliest farmed crops in South America. However, it is difficult to work out exactly when people started to farm capsicums. The main reason this is so difficult is because edible varieties grew successfully in the wild, meaning it is hard to know when people stopped gathering them from the wild and started to plant and cultivate them. Recently, fossilised grains of domesticated Capsicum species were found on grinding stones and cooking pots used in the Americas 4000 years ago, indicating that people were routinely farming them around 2000 BC.

Although capsicums were being grown and eaten thousands of years ago throughout South America, it is believed that capsicums were only exported after Christopher Columbus’ voyage in the 1400s. When Columbus tasted the small red berries of a chilli plant, he thought he had reached India and called them red pepper because the spice reminded him of black pepper. Columbus bought some chilli plants back to Europe and is often credited with introducing chillies to Europe, and subsequently to India, Africa, China, and Japan. Unlike eggplant, chillies were welcomed into the cuisines of Europe and within 100 years after Columbus’ voyage, capsicums had spread around the world and had become part of many national cuisines. Today, they are the defining ingredient in many traditional cuisines worldwide, including countries such as Italy, Spain, Hungary, Thailand, India, Vietnam and China. Capsicum is now one of the most widely cultivated plants in the world.

Capsaicin--the pungent, spicy compound in capsicums)--is used as a self defence spray and is also used by police across the world for riot and crowd control. The spray causes people to have trouble breathing and is very painful; the effect lasts about 20 minutes. Capsaicin has also been used to repel mice from gnawing on underground electrical cables and to keep squirrels from eating bird seed.

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Comprehensive Description

provided by EOL staff

Introduction

A truly global ingredient, capsicums (chillies and sweet peppers) are a vital part of many cuisines all over the world. They are the essence of spicy Mexican chilli salsa, Hungarian goulash, and most Asian curries. While native only to South America, capsicums are now one of the most widely cultivated crops worldwide.

Many English speakers call these plants peppers, but this can be confusing because black pepper is a different plant altogether. The confusion may have arisen when capsicums were first taken to Asia and began to replace black pepper as a spicy ingredient in food. The term capsicum may be used to refer to both the small spicy ones (usually called chillies), and the large, sweet, non-spicy ones (often called peppers). Another confusion arises in the English speaking world regarding the spelling of spicy capsicums – is it chile, chilli or chilli? It seems that all three versions are used in different parts of the world to describe the plant, the fruit, and the delicious meals made from them.

Wild capsicums

Today, there are thousands of different varieties of capsicum including colourful ornamental ones, sweet salad peppers, and spicy blow-your-head-off chillies. Many botanists believe the origins of all these different types can be traced back to about five of the 30 or so species of Capsicum. These species can still be found growing wild in various locations in South America, with the highest species diversity in Brazil. Surprisingly, only five of these species have been domesticated. So the thousands of varieties we know today can be traced back to one of these five species.

Finding out which plants are the original ancestors of modern crop plants and trying to determine their place of origin is very challenging. To solve this puzzle for capsicums, botanists look closely at different capsicum varieties growing in the wild. Botanists also look at other crop relatives growing in the same location because areas which have the greatest diversity of crop relatives are often thought to be the centre of origin for that crop. Back in the lab, or herbarium, botanists look at a wide variety of characteristics in order to work out the relationships of the various types.

Botanists are aiming to collect herbarium specimens and seeds of all wild and domesticated varieties of capsicum; of course, this work is all done with the proper permissions from the authorities of the countries where wild capsicums grow, and in collaboration with local botanists from many countries. When complete, this collection will be very important for improving commercial capsicum varieties including enhancing disease resistance, nutritional quality, yield, and even efficiency of harvesting.

Collecting all varieties of capsicum sounds easy but it is proving to be increasingly difficult because the capsicum’s natural habitat is threatened by tropical deforestation. Also, new species are discovered all the time, so discovering diversity is an ongoing task. It is possible that a complete collection of all capsicum species may never be gathered.

Domestication of capsicums

People across the Americas have been eating and cultivating capsicums for 6000 years. Chillies and peppers were first domesticated in the Americas and they are one of the earliest farmed crops in South America. However, it is difficult to work out exactly when people started to farm capsicums. The main reason this is so difficult is because edible varieties grew successfully in the wild, meaning it is hard to know when people stopped gathering them from the wild and started to plant and cultivate them. Recently, fossilised grains of domesticated Capsicum species were found on grinding stones and cooking pots used in the Americas 4000 years ago, indicating that people were routinely farming them around 2000 BC.

Domestication of capsicum probably occurred in a similar way to the domestication of the tomato. Ancient people of South America grew wild plants, and then selected seeds from preferred plants to sow the next season. Over many years, this gave rise to plants with bigger fruit and all kinds of different colours and tastes. Today’s plant breeders are using similar techniques to create new varieties.

To find out more about plant breeding, click here.

Spread of capsicums

Although capsicums were being grown and eaten thousands of years ago throughout South America, it is believed that capsicums were only exported after Christopher Columbus’ voyage in the 1400s. When Columbus tasted the small red berries of a chilli plant, he thought he had reached India and called them red pepper because the spice reminded him of black pepper. Columbus bought some chilli plants back to Europe and is often credited with introducing chillies to Europe, and subsequently to India, Africa, China, and Japan. Unlike eggplant, chillies were welcomed into the cuisines of Europe and within 100 years after Columbus’ voyage, capsicums had spread around the world and had become part of many national cuisines. Today, they are the defining ingredient in many traditional cuisines worldwide, including countries such as Italy, Spain, Hungary, Thailand, India, Vietnam and China. Capsicum is now one of the most widely cultivated plants in the world.

Use of capsicums

Capsicums are mostly used as a seasoning or a salad vegetable. Below, we have listed many different ways the capsicum plant is used across the world – from an essential kitchen ingredient to a self defence spray. Firstly, a bit of information on their most famous characteristic.

Firepower

The most famous attribute of the capsicum is its fire power (pungency). Some are very sweet and some are so spicy they make our eyes water. The level of pungency in capsicums depends upon the amount of a substance called capsaicin. Pungency is inherited from one plant to another. This occurs in a similar way as blue eye colour is inherited in humans. Pungency, as opposed to non-pungency, is a dominant trait. So if two plants – one pungent and one non-pungent – cross pollinate then only 1 in 4 of the resulting plants will be non-pungent. This is a good example of Mendelian genetics. To find out more about Mendel click here.

Some wild species of chilli (Capsicum chacoense from Bolivia) are variable in their pungency; this seems to be related to defence from attack by microbes that can kill the plant seeds.

The spicy heat of chillies is rated in Scoville Heat Units; the higher the number, the hotter the chilli. The hottest chilli in the world is a very new breed of capsicum plant created by two plant breeders in the UK. It is called Dorset Naga and recently passed the Red Savina habañero to gain the top spot on the Scoville Scale. Originally Scoville Heat Units were assigned using a panel of five human chilli tasters who tasted a chilli and recorded the heat level. This test has been replaced by a more exact test that measures the amount of capsaicin in each fruit. Many people around the world still enter chilli eating competitions where the aim is to eat the hottest chilli on the table.

Some scientists have studied why people love to eat spicy foods and why they try to eat hotter and hotter chillies. The studies show that chillies can give people the same sensation they get from a roller-coaster ride by causing the release of compounds called endorphins.

In the kitchen

Chilli tasting experts (a bit like wine tasters) are able to distinguish between very subtle chillie flavours: ancho is sweetish, mulatto is chocolaty, mirasol is fruity, and chipotle is smokey. And different flavours can be enhanced by different cooking techniques such as grinding the pods, toasting before grinding, or soaking the chillies in water. The famous Tabasco sauce is produced differently from many other salsas. The chillies are mashed, soaked, aged, and then strained and bottled. They are not cooked and this is thought to be the secret to Tabasco’s unique flavour.

Sweet peppers are also used in many cuisines all over the world. They contain a lot of vitamin C and are used for both flavour and colour. In many parts of the world, the spicy pungent flavour is used to enhance the insipid taste of many basic nutrient foods.

Medicinal uses

Capsicums are also used for many medicinal purposes. Capsaicin (the spicy compound) is a digestive irritant, a stimulant, and can be used to relieve arthritis, muscle cramps, and toothache. Chillies are known to raise body temperature and increase the flow of saliva and gastric juices. Many people, while using spicy chillies in the kitchen, experience skin irritation, stinging eyes, and even blisters and eating too much can aggravate stomach ulcers.

Ornamental chillies

Some chillies are grown as ornamental plants for their unusual fruit shapes, thick foliage, and very colourful fruits – some plants have fruit of four or five different colours on the same plant at the same time, reflecting colour changes during fruit ripening. In New Mexico, people dry red chillies in colourful strings called ristras. The ristra is placed near the front door of the house as a symbol of hospitality. A similar method of drying chillies is used in southwestern China.

Other uses

Capsaicin (the pungent, spicy compound in capsicums) is used as a self defence spray and is also used by police across the world for riot and crowd control. The spray causes people to have trouble breathing and is very painful; the effect lasts about 20 minutes. Capsaicin has also been used to repel mice from gnawing on underground electrical cables and to keep squirrels from eating bird seed. It appears to have evolved as a plant defence against microbe attack.

How capsicums have changed

Plant breeders are always looking for ways to improve crops and new varieties of capsicums are being bred all the time. There are bigger ones, sweeter ones, ones with different shaped or more nutritious fruit, and plants with greater resistance to drought and pests. We often think of plant breeding as a fairly modern practise, but by the time Europeans arrived in Mexico, Aztec plant breeders had already developed dozens of different types of capsicum fruit. Capsicums are an important crop and improvements are still being made to chilli and pepper plants even though there are already many different types available. Recent improvements include increased quality and yield (number of fruit per plant), more variety of colours, and enhanced nutritional value. One new variety of green New Mexican chilli provides the entire minimum daily requirement of vitamin C; it has three times as much vitamin C as a Valencia orange.

An ongoing challenge in chilli growing communities is to create a chilli plant with the hottest, most fiery chillies, to bump the current one off the top of the Scoville scale (see Firepower section, above).

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Description

provided by Flora of Zimbabwe
Unarmed annual or perennial herbs. Flowers 1-few, extra-axillary or leaf-opposed. Calyx entire, truncate or shortly dentate, not accrescent. Corolla rotate to broadly campanulate, variously coloured. Stamens 5, ± exserted; anthers dehiscing by longitudinal splits. Fruit a berry, extremely variable in size, shape and colour.
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bibliographic citation
Hyde, M.A., Wursten, B.T. and Ballings, P. (2002-2014). Capsicum Flora of Zimbabwe website. Accessed 28 August 2014 at http://www.zimbabweflora.co.zw/speciesdata/genus.php?genus_id=1248
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Bart Wursten
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Capsicum

provided by wikipedia EN

Capsicum (/ˈkæpsɪkəm/[3]) is a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family Solanaceae, native to the Americas, cultivated worldwide for their chili pepper or bell pepper fruit.

Etymology and names

The generic name may come from Latin capsa, meaning 'box', presumably alluding to the pods; or from the Greek word κάπτω kapto, 'to gulp'.[4][5][6] The name "pepper" comes from the similarity of piquance (spiciness or "heat") of the flavor to that of black pepper, Piper nigrum, although there is no botanical relationship with it or with Sichuan pepper. The original term, chilli (now chile in Mexico) came from the Nahuatl word chīlli, denoting a larger Capsicum variety cultivated at least since 3000 BC, as evidenced by remains found in pottery from Puebla and Oaxaca.[7] Different varieties were cultivated in South America, where they are known as ajíes (singular ají), from the Quechua term for Capsicum.[1]

The fruit (technically berries in the strict botanical sense) of Capsicum plants have a variety of names depending on place and type. The more piquant varieties are commonly called chili peppers, or simply chilis. The large, mild form is called bell pepper, or by color or both (green pepper, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, etc.) in North America and South Africa, sweet pepper or simply pepper in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Malaysia,[8] but typically called capsicum in Australia, India, New Zealand[9] and Singapore.

Capsicum fruits of several varieties with commercial value are called by various European-language names in English, such as jalapeño, peperoncini, and peperoncito; many of these are usually sold pickled. Paprika (in English) refers to a powdered spice made of dried Capsicum of several sorts, though in Hungary, Germany and some other countries it is the name of the fruit as well. Both whole and powdered chili are frequent ingredients in dishes prepared throughout the world, and characteristic of several cuisine styles, including Mexican, Sichuan (Szechuan) Chinese, Korean, Cajun and Creole, along with most South Asian and derived (e.g. Jamaican) curries. The powdered form is a key ingredient in various commercially prepared foodstuffs, such as pepperoni (a sausage), chili con carne (a meat stew), and hot sauces.

Growing conditions

Ideal growing conditions for peppers include a sunny position with warm, loamy soil, ideally 21 to 29 °C (70 to 84 °F), that is moist but not waterlogged.[10] Extremely moist soils can cause seedlings to "damp-off" and reduce germination.

The plants will tolerate (but do not like) temperatures down to 12 °C (54 °F) and they are sensitive to cold.[11][12] For flowering, Capsicum is a non-photoperiod-sensitive crop.[13] The flowers can self-pollinate. However, at extremely high temperature, 33 to 38 °C (91 to 100 °F), pollen loses viability, and flowers are much less likely to pollinate successfully.

Species and varieties

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Red peppers in Cachi, Argentina air-drying before being processed into powder
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An arrangement of chilis, including jalapeno, banana, cayenne, and habanero peppers.

Capsicum consists of 20–27 species,[14] five of which are domesticated: C. annuum, C. baccatum, C. chinense, C. frutescens, and C. pubescens.[15] Phylogenetic relationships between species have been investigated using biogeographical,[16] morphological,[17] chemosystematic,[18] hybridization,[19] and genetic[14] data. Fruits of Capsicum can vary tremendously in color, shape, and size both between and within species, which has led to confusion over the relationships among taxa.[20] Chemosystematic studies helped distinguish the difference between varieties and species. For example, C. baccatum var. baccatum had the same flavonoids as C. baccatum var. pendulum, which led researchers to believe the two groups belonged to the same species.[18]

Many varieties of the same species can be used in many different ways; for example, C. annuum includes the "bell pepper" variety, which is sold in both its immature green state and its red, yellow, or orange ripe state. This same species has other varieties, as well, such as the Anaheim chiles often used for stuffing, the dried ancho (before being dried it is referred to as a poblano) chile used to make chili powder, the mild-to-hot, ripe jalapeno used to make smoked jalapeno, known as chipotle.

Peru is thought to be the country with the highest cultivated Capsicum diversity since varieties of all five domesticates are commonly sold in markets in contrast to other countries. Bolivia is considered to be the country where the largest diversity of wild Capsicum peppers are consumed. Bolivian consumers distinguish two basic forms: ulupicas, species with small round fruits including C. eximium, C. cardenasii, C. eshbaughii, and C. caballeroi landraces; and arivivis, with small elongated fruits including C. baccatum var. baccatum and C. chacoense varieties.[21]

The amount of capsaicin in hot peppers varies significantly among varieties, and is measured in Scoville heat units (SHU). The world's current hottest known pepper as rated in SHU is the 'Carolina Reaper,' which had been measured at over 2,200,000 SHU.

Species list

Sources:[22][23]

Formerly placed here

  • Tubocapsicum anomalum (Franch. & Sav.) Makino (as C. anomalum Franch. & Sav.)
  • Vassobia fasciculata (Miers) Hunz. (as C. grandiflorum Kuntze)
  • Witheringia stramoniifolia Kunth (as C. stramoniifolium (Kunth) Kuntze)[2]

Genetics

Most Capsicum species are 2n=2x=24. A few of the non-domesticated species are 2n=2x=32.[24] All are diploid. The Capsicum annuum and Capsicum chinense genomes were completed in 2014. The Capsicum annuum genome is approximately 3.48 Gb, making it larger than the human genome. Over 75% of the pepper genome is composed of transposable elements, mostly Gypsy elements, distributed widely throughout the genome. The distribution of transposable elements is inversely correlated with gene density. Pepper is predicted to have 34,903 genes, approximately the same number as both tomato and potato, two related species within the family Solanaceae.[25]

Breeding

Many types of peppers have been bred for heat, size, and yield. Along with selection of specific fruit traits such as flavor and color, specific pest, disease and abiotic stress resistances are continually being selected. Breeding occurs in several environments dependent on the use of the final variety including but not limited to: conventional, organic, hydroponic, green house and shade house production environments.

Several breeding programs are being conducted by corporations and universities. In the United States, New Mexico State University has released several varieties in the last few years.[26] Cornell University has worked to develop regionally adapted varieties that work better in cooler, damper climates. Other universities such as UC Davis, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Oregon State University have smaller breeding programs. Many vegetable seed companies breed different types of peppers as well.

Capsaicin

The fruit of most species of Capsicum contains capsaicin (methyl-n-vanillyl nonenamide), a lipophilic chemical that can produce a burning sensation (pungency or spiciness) in the mouth of the eater. Most mammals find this unpleasant, whereas birds are unaffected.[27][28] The secretion of capsaicin protects the fruit from consumption by insects[29] and mammals, while the bright colors attract birds that will disperse the seeds.

Capsaicin is present in large quantities in the placental tissue (which holds the seeds), the internal membranes, and to a lesser extent, the other fleshy parts of the fruits of plants in this genus. The seeds themselves do not produce any capsaicin, although the highest concentration of capsaicin can be found in the white pith around the seeds.[30] Most of the capsaicin in a pungent (hot) pepper is concentrated in blisters on the epidermis of the interior ribs (septa) that divide the chambers, or locules, of the fruit to which the seeds are attached.[31]

A study on capsaicin production in fruits of C. chinense showed that capsaicinoids are produced only in the epidermal cells of the interlocular septa of pungent fruits, that blister formation only occurs as a result of capsaicinoid accumulation, and that pungency and blister formation are controlled by a single locus, Pun1, for which there exist at least two recessive alleles that result in non-pungency of C. chinense fruits.[32]

The amount of capsaicin in the fruit is highly variable and dependent on genetics and environment, giving almost all types of Capsicum varied amounts of perceived heat. The most recognized Capsicum without capsaicin is the bell pepper,[33] a cultivar of Capsicum annuum, which has a zero rating on the Scoville scale. The lack of capsaicin in bell peppers is due to a recessive gene that eliminates capsaicin and, consequently, the hot taste usually associated with the rest of the genus Capsicum.[34] There are also other peppers without capsaicin, mostly within the Capsicum annuum species, such as the cultivars Giant Marconi,[35] Yummy Sweets,[36] Jimmy Nardello,[37] and Italian Frying peppers[38] (also known as the Cubanelle).

Chili peppers are of great importance in Native American medicine, and capsaicin is used in modern medicine mainly in topical medications as a circulatory stimulant and analgesic. In more recent times, an aerosol extract of capsaicin, usually known as capsicum or pepper spray, has become used by law enforcement as a nonlethal means of incapacitating a person, and in a more widely dispersed form for riot control, or by individuals for personal defense. Pepper in vegetable oils, or as an horticultural product[39] can be used in gardening as a natural insecticide.

Although black pepper causes a similar burning sensation, it is caused by a different substance—piperine.

Cuisine

Capsicum fruits can be eaten raw or cooked. Those used in cooking are generally varieties of the C. annuum and C. frutescens species, though a few others are used, as well. They are suitable for stuffing with fillings such as cheese, meat, or rice.

They are also frequently used both chopped and raw in salads, or cooked in stir-fries or other mixed dishes. They can be sliced into strips and fried, roasted whole or in pieces, or chopped and incorporated into salsas or other sauces, of which they are often a main ingredient.

They can be preserved in the form of a jam,[40] or by drying, pickling, or freezing. Dried Capsicum may be reconstituted whole, or processed into flakes or powders. Pickled or marinated Capsicum are frequently added to sandwiches or salads. Frozen Capsicum are used in stews, soups, and salsas. Extracts can be made and incorporated into hot sauces.

The Spanish conquistadores soon became aware of their culinary properties, and brought them back to Europe, together with cocoa, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tobacco, maize, beans, and turkeys. They also brought it to the Spanish Philippines colonies, whence it spread to Asia. The Portuguese brought them to their African and Asiatic possessions such as India. All varieties were appreciated but the hot ones were particularly appreciated, because they could enliven an otherwise monotonous diet during times of dietary restriction, such as during religious observances.

Spanish cuisine soon benefited from the discovery of chiles in the New World, and it would become very difficult to untangle Spanish cooking from chiles. Ground chiles, or paprika, hot or otherwise, are a key ingredient in chorizo, which is then called picante (if hot chile is added) or dulce (if otherwise). Paprika is also an important ingredient in rice dishes, and plays a definitive role in squid Galician style (polbo á feira). Chopped chiles are used in fish or lamb dishes such as ajoarriero or chilindrón. Pisto is a vegetarian stew with chilies and zucchini as main ingredients. They can also be added, finely chopped, to gazpacho as a garnish. In some regions, bacon is salted and dusted in paprika for preservation. Cheese can also be rubbed with paprika to lend it flavour and colour. Dried round chiles called ñoras are used for arroz a banda.

After being introduced by the Portuguese, chile peppers saw widespread adoption throughout South, Southeast, and East Asia, especially in India, Thailand, Vietnam, China, and Korea. Several new cultivars were developed in these countries, and their use in combination with (or as a substitute for) existing 'hot' culinary spices such as black pepper and Sichuan pepper spread rapidly, giving rise to the modern forms a number of staple dishes such as Channa masala, Tom yum, Laziji, and Kimchi. This would in turn influence Anglo-Indian and American Chinese cuisine, most notably with the development of British and American forms of curry powder (based on Indian spice preparations such as Garam masala), and dishes such as General Tso's Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala.

According to Richard Pankhurst, C. frutescens (known as barbaré) was so important to the national cuisine of Ethiopia, at least as early as the 19th century, "that it was cultivated extensively in the warmer areas wherever the soil was suitable." Although it was grown in every province, barbaré was especially extensive in Yejju, "which supplied much of Showa, as well as other neighbouring provinces." He mentions the upper Golima River valley as being almost entirely devoted to the cultivation of this plant, where it was harvested year-round.[41]

In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed the capsicum to be Britain's fourth-favourite culinary vegetable.[42]

In Hungary, sweet yellow capsicum – along with tomatoes – are the main ingredient of lecsó.

In Bulgaria, South Serbia, and North Macedonia, capsicum are very popular, too. They can be eaten in salads, like shopska salata; fried and then covered with a dip of tomato paste, onions, garlic, and parsley; or stuffed with a variety of products, such as minced meat and rice, beans, or cottage cheese and eggs. Capsicum are also the main ingredient in the traditional tomato and capsicum dip lyutenitsa and ajvar. They are in the base of different kinds of pickled vegetables dishes, turshiya.

Capsicum is also used widely in Italian cuisine, and the hot species are used all around the southern part of Italy as a common spice (sometimes served with olive oil). Capsicums are used in many dishes; they can be cooked by themselves in a variety of ways (roasted, fried, deep-fried) and are a fundamental ingredient for some delicatessen specialities, such as nduja.

Capsicums are also used extensively in Sri Lanka cuisine as side dishes.[43]

The Maya and Aztec people of Mesoamerica used Capsicum fruit in cocoa drinks as a flavouring.[44]

In New Mexico, there is a capsicum annuum cultivar group called the New Mexico chile which is a mainstay of the state's New Mexican cuisine.

GRAS

Only Capsicum frutescens L. and Capsicum annuum L. are Generally recognized as safe.[45][46]

Synonyms and common names

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Capsicum annuum cultivars

The name given to the Capsicum fruits varies between English-speaking countries.

In Australia, New Zealand and India, heatless varieties are called "capsicums", while hot ones are called "chilli"/"chillies" (double L). Pepperoncini are also known as "sweet capsicum". The term "bell peppers" is never used, although C. annuum and other varieties which have a bell shape and are fairly hot, are often called "bell chillies".

In Canada, Ireland, South Africa and the United Kingdom, the heatless varieties are commonly known simply as "peppers" (or more specifically "green peppers", "red peppers", etc.), while the hot ones are "chilli"/"chillies" (double L) or "chilli peppers".

In the United States, the common heatless varieties are referred to as "bell peppers", "sweet peppers", "red/green/etc. peppers", or simply "peppers", while the hot varieties are collectively called "chile"/"chiles", "chili"/"chilies", or "chili"/"chile peppers" (one L only), "hot peppers", or named as a specific variety (e.g., banana pepper).

In Polish and in Hungarian, the term papryka and paprika (respectively) is used for all kinds of capsicums (the sweet vegetable, and the hot spicy), as well as for dried and ground spice made from them (named paprika in both U.S. English and Commonwealth English). Also, fruit and spice can be attributed as papryka ostra (hot pepper) or papryka słodka (sweet pepper). In Polish, the term pieprz (pepper) instead means only grains or ground black pepper (incl. the green, white, and red forms), but not capsicum. Sometimes, the hot capsicum spice is also called chilli. Similarly, Hungarian uses the word bors for the black pepper.

In Czech and Slovak, the term paprika is too used for all kinds of capsicums. For black pepper, Czech uses pepř, while Slovak uses čierne korenie (literally, black spice) or, dialectally, piepor.[47]

In Italy and the Italian- and German-speaking parts of Switzerland, the sweet varieties are called peperone and the hot varieties peperoncino (literally "small pepper"). In Germany, the heatless varieties as well as the spice are called Paprika and the hot types are primarily called Peperoni or Chili while in Austria, Pfefferoni is more common for these; in Dutch, this word is also used exclusively for bell peppers, whereas chilli is reserved for powders, and hot pepper variants are referred to as Spaanse pepers (Spanish peppers). In Switzerland, though, the condiment powder made from capsicum is called Paprika (German language regions) and paprica (French and Italian language region). In French, capsicum is called poivron for sweet varieties and piment for hot ones.

Spanish-speaking countries use many different names for the varieties and preparations. In Mexico, the term chile is used for "hot peppers", while the heatless varieties are called pimiento (the masculine form of the word for pepper, which is pimienta). Several other countries, such as Chile, whose name is unrelated, Perú, Puerto Rico, and Argentina, use ají. In Spain, heatless varieties are called pimiento and hot varieties guindilla. In Argentina and Spain, the variety C. chacoense is commonly known as "putaparió", a slang expression equivalent to "damn it", probably due to its extra-hot flavour.

In Indian English, the word "capsicum" is used exclusively for Capsicum annuum. All other varieties of hot capsicum are called chilli. In northern India and Pakistan, C. annuum is also commonly called shimla mirch in the local language and as "Kodai Mozhagai" in Tamil which roughly translates to "umbrella chilli" due to its appearance. Shimla, incidentally, is a popular hill-station in India (and mirch means chilli in local languages).

In Japanese, tōgarashi (唐辛子, トウガラシ "Chinese mustard") refers to hot chili peppers, and particularly a spicy powder made from them which is used as a condiment, while bell peppers are called pīman (ピーマン, from the French piment or the Spanish pimiento).

Pictures of common cultivars

See also

References

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Capsicum: Brief Summary

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Capsicum (/ˈkæpsɪkəm/) is a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family Solanaceae, native to the Americas, cultivated worldwide for their chili pepper or bell pepper fruit.

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