However you spell Chilli, you know it’s going to be hot!
Chilli powder is generally regarded as a spice. This article is about hot chilli peppers, the various varieties and what they offer. It also includes other interesting chilli information.
Whether you spell it Chilli chili, chilli, chillie or chile pepper depends on where in the world you come from, so all are correct! And anyway, mention chilli in conversation and everybody knows what you are talking about!
Why Chilli Peppers are so hot!
The active component that causes the burning sensation in chilli peppers is called capsaicin which is present in all parts of a chilli pepper with the exception of the pepper’s seeds.
Its highest concentration is found in the white pith that surrounds the seeds and runs around inside the chilli pepper pod. It is also present in the fleshy skin but to a significantly lesser extent.
In humans and other mammals, when capsaicin comes into contact with mucous membranes, the body responds by releasing endorphins.
The endorphins have several effects. Sex hormones are released, the immune systems response is enhanced, appetite is repressed and a feeling of euphoria occurs. The higher the level endorphins, the feeling of pain is reduced as are the negative effects of stress.
The degree of these effects varies from individual to individual.
If the pith and its veins are entirely removed and the remainder of the chilli eaten, you can really appreciate the taste of the chilli pepper without the intense heat.
Different varieties of Chilli Peppers
It is impossible to write about all of the varieties of Chilli peppers that exist so this section is restricted to the famous Chilli Peppers. If you think I’ve missed out any particular type of Chilli or see any corrections that need to be made, please let me know and I’ll amend as necessary.
The ratings are the maximum known for each particular chilli. The Scoville rating of an individual pods of the same chilli type can vary enormously depending on the individual plants growing conditions and environment. Humidity is one factor that has a great influence on the hotness of a chilli.
Jalepino Chilli Pepper
Jalepino Chilli Scoville heat rating
Varies between 2,500 and 8,000 units
Jalepino Chilli pepper colouring and size
The Jalepino chilli pod’s colour is green when young but when mature the chilli pod turns to a bright red. A fully grown Jalepino chilli is between 5 to 10 cm long.
Alternative names for the Jalepino Chilli pepper
In Mexico the Jalepino chilli is also known as the chili gordo and huachinango.
The Jalepino Chilli flavour and aroma
The Jalepino Chilli pepper tastes of citrus fruit but predominantly lemon flavoured.
Jalepino Chilli pepper growing locations
Mexico is the predominant growing area for this chilli with North America a close second. It is however grown worldwide like most chilli pods nowadays.
Birds Eye Chilli Pepper
Birds Eye Chilli pepper Scoville heat rating
Varies between 100,000-175,000 units
Birds Eye Chilli pepper colouring and size
Mature chilli pod colour can be red or green
Alternative names for the Birds Eye Chilli pepper
Alternative names for this chilli include African Devil, Congo Chilli, Zanzibar Chilli and African Red Devil amongst others.
Birds Eye Chilli pepper growing locations
The Bird’s Eye chilli is found growing almost all over the African continent.
Scots Bonnet Chilli Pepper
Scotch Bonnet Chilli pepper Scoville heat rating
Varies between 100,000 and 350,000 units
Scotch Bonnet Chilli pepper colouring and size
Scotch Bonnet Chilli peppers are green but mature and change colour to yellow, orange and bright red. These chili peppers vary in size but grow up to 70 mm long and 50 mm in diameter.
Alternative names for the Scotch Bonnet Chilli pepper
Scotch Bonnet chilli peppers are also known as Scotty Bons, Meh Boabs Bonnet and Bonney peppers
Flavour and aroma of the Scotch Bonnet Chilli pepper
This pepper’s taste is sweet and fruity.
Scotch Bonnet Chilli pepper growing locations
Scotch Bonnet chilli peppers are particularly grown in the Caribbean where the climate suits their cultivation. They are also grown worldwide with Turkey being a large producer.
Habanero Chilli Pepper
Habanero Chilli pepper Scoville heat rating
Scoville heat rating starts at 100,000 but can go as high as 450,000 units depending on which variety of Habanero chilli is being measured.
These are the four hottest members of the Habanero chilli family!
Orange Habanero Chilli: up to 350,000 units
White Habanero Chilli: up to 420,000 units
Paper Lantern Habenero: up to 450,000 units
Chocolate Habanero chilli: up to 425,000 units
Habanero Chilli pepper colouring and size
The Habanero Chilli as most chillies is green when immature. Dependant on the type of Habanero chilli, the mature chilli pod colour is different.
The Orange Habenero Chilli pod matures to a pale orange,
The Chocolate Habanero chilli changes to a rich brown and measures on average about 45mm long and up to 40mm wide. It looks like a brown scotch bonnet and has the same wrinkled appearance.
The Paper Lantern Habenero is a brilliant emerald green when immature and then changes to a deep vibrant red measuring up to
The White Habanero Chilli pod matures from a very pale creamy green into a creamy white. These lantern shaped chillies grow to 40mm in length with a width of 25mm.
Flavour and aroma of the Habanero Chilli pepper
Generally the Habanero chilli family have a fruity taste almost citrus in flavour. Its aroma is distinctly floral.
Where Habanero Chilli peppers are grown
Although now grown worldwide, the main production areas are Panama, Mexico, Costa Rica, Belize, and some of the states in the U.S.
Bhut Jolokia Chilli Pepper
Bhut Jalokia Scoville heat rating
In excess of 1,000,000 units
Bhut Jalokia chilli colouring and size
Colour of the mature pod is a brown or red whilst the immature pod is green. The fully grown chilli pod can be up to 85mm lond and 30 mm in width though this varies considerably.
Alternative names of the Bhut Jalokia chilli
The Bhut Jalokia chilli has several alternative names including the Bih Jalokia, Cobra Chilli, Naga Jolokia and Ghost Chilli particularly in the USA
Flavour and aroma of the Bhut Jalokia Chilli
The aroma of the Bhut Jalokia Chilli is a mixture of apricots and and apples. Its taste is sweet and fruity. Sometimes described as tasting of oranges.
Where the Bhut Jalokia chilli grows
The Bhut Jalokia is found predominantly on the Indian continent in the following areas. Assam, Bangladesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Sri Lanaka. The Bhut Jalokia chilli is now cultivated in many countries including the UK where the hottest is known as the Dorset Naga although there is some debate as to whether this particular type of chilli is really a Naga.
Chilli Peppers and health
There are both positives and negatives to chilli peppers. Here are a few of them!
Chilli peppers and medicine
The capsaicin extracted from chilli peppers is found in many non prescription ointments that treat arthritis (osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis) and provide pain in muscles and joints. That’s why these ointments feel hot once they have been applied.
By the same token, always wear gloves when working with chilli peppers in the kitchen. I make a lot of chilli sauces and have found that rubbing vegetable oil into your hands before working with chilli peppers works too!
Chilli peppers and general health
People who regularly heat chilli peppers claim that they rarely suffer from colds and there is some evidence to confirm this claim.
Chilli peppers contain very high levels of vitamins particularly A, C and D. The levels of vitamins C and A in the chilli pepper exceed the quantities found in more traditional sources such as oranges and carrots.
Vitamin D is not commonly found in natural food stuffs and is normally produced by synthesis when sunlight absorbed by the skin. This ability to produce vitamin D reduces as age increases.
Vitamin D is important to maintain healthy bones by promoting the absorption of calcium which prevents bones from becoming thin and brittle. Vitamin D in conjunction with calcium prevents adults from contracting osteomalacia and osteoporosis when older.
Other benefits obtained from vitamin D are anti-inflammatory and the bolstering of the immune system. (The reason why chilli peppers are eaten by athletes in training.)
Chilli peppers contain very high levels of vitamin D.
Medical research involving chilli peppers and or capsaicin
There is a considerable amount of research being carried out worldwide on various health conditions and the benefits that chilli peppers and capsaicin may bring.
Here are two of many examples of chilli peppers being involved in medical research.
Chilli peppers, capsaicin and diabetes
The capsaicin in chilli peppers is known to reduce the amount of insulin required to lower blood sugar levels after a meal by approximately 60%.
This is being researched with a view to treatments for diabetics and people who are overweight.
Cancer and Chilli peppers
Chillies contain natural anti-oxidants. Research has shown that some cultures have lower than average incidents of cancer among their populations. The connection seems to be that these cultures eat chilli peppers regularly.
Rats with prostrate cancer has shown up to 80% of the cancerous cells being killed off by large doses of capsaicin.
Similar research is being carried out in relation to lung cancer. You can read more on the BBC website on how spicy foods can kill cancers.
The pain associated eating really hot chilli peppers
Below is a video of Jamie Kocher, the CEO of the Waimea Bay Chili Pepper Company. He is eating the spiciest part of the Bhut Jolokia Chilli pepper. Watch the video to the end. It’s worth it!
Hope you enjoyed the video and of course the post! I will be adding other chillies to this post. All suggestions are welcome.
Beware the mighty Chilli but don’t ignore it either!