Chilli, as it is known in Australia and Chilli peppers, as it is known in America, has been part of the human diet since at least 7500 BC. Recent evidence suggests chillies were domesticated more than 6000 years ago in Mexico, in the region extending across Puebla to southeastern Veracruz. They were one of the first self-pollinating crops cultivated in Mexico, Central and parts of South America.
Today, Peru has the largest cultivated varieties of Chilli, with Bolivia the country where the largest diversity of Chillies are consumed.
The first European to encounter chilli was Christopher Columbus, with the first chillies being introduced to Europe, namely Spain, in 1494, where it began being investigated for its medicinal use. The spread of Chillies to Asia is believed to be due to the Portuguese traders, who promoted the commerce of this spice during trade journeys. The Goan region of India, heavily relies on Chilli as part of their cuisine, due to the Portuguese influence in this region. From here Chilli journeyed from India, through Central Asia, Turkey, and Hungary.
There is also evidence of Ancient artefacts that depict the presence of Chilli during the Roman Empire.
According to traditional Ayurvedic Medicine, Chilli stimulates healthy digestion and is also a beneficial pain reliever.
Chilli is part of the capsicum family and there are 5 main domesticated species which are, Capsicum annuum, Capsicum frutescens, Capsicum chinense, Capsium pubescens and Capsicum baccatum.
It is very much common knowledge that Chilli contains an intense, peppery, and spicy flavour. It is not for everyone and the intensities of the spicy punch can vary from species to species. The substance that gives chilli it’s spicy, intense flavour, is capsaicin and other chemicals called capsaicinoids. The variances in intensity depends on the capsaicin content of the chilli.
When chilli is consumed, the capsaicinoids bind with the pain receptors in the mouth and throat that are responsible for sensing heat. This reaction sends a message to the brain that the person has consumed something hot. Because of this, the brain initiates a cascade of events by increasing heart rate, increases sweating and promotes the release of endorphins. Due to this response, chilli can increase thermogenesis (increasing heat in the body) which, as a result, increases metabolism and can aid with improving the body’s ability to burn fat.
Capsaicin, the active component of Chilli, has been used topically, for many years to aid with reducing pain, namely neuropathic pain, with great success. The way in which capsaicin reduces pain is still not entirely known and is under investigation.
Chilli can be included to most dishes and adds a delicious, spicy element to your cooking.