Bell pepper (Green, yellow, orange, Red variety)
Indian food without chillies is like summer without sunshine. That is not to say that all indian food scorches the taste buds rather that it is an amicable blend of heat fragrance and flavour. Given the importance of this spice today it surprising that until about 400 years ago chillies we unknown in India. They were first introduced by the Portuguese at the end of the 15th century. Chillies were first domesticated n Mexico in about 7000 BC and it is generally believed that Columbus introduced the fruit to the Europeans. By 1650 they had spread all over the world and were adopted into the cuisines of most of the tropical countries. Beautiful to look at and endowed with the power of fire this fruit belongs to the Solanaceae family which includes such tranquil relatives as the tomato and the aubergine.
How it growsChillies are cultivated mainly in tropical and sub tropical countnes with India undoubtedly the largest producer and major exporter. Commercially chillies which are fruits of the capsicum species may be classified on the basis of their colour shape and pungency but on the whole two major varieties Capsicum annuum and Capsicum frutescens are grown and eaten all over the world. The cannuum bush is an annual which grows up to a height of 1m and bears fnuit that are large mild and pendant like sweet peppers. The c. frutescens plant is a perennial which grows up to 2m and has smaller pungent pods which grow pointing away from the stem. Examples are birdseye and tahasco chillies.When the fruits mature they are picked and dried in great mounds in the sun or in huge mechanical driers. They are then sorted according to their size pungency and colour.
Appearance and tasteFresh unripe chillies come in various shades of green from lime to olive. The ripe fruits are red and these are dried until they look like dark crumpled nubies. Mexican chillies like the serrano jalapeno cascabel and ancho are short and thick. Habanero chillies from the West Indies are lantern shaped and venous indian chillies are long and fat round like cherries or small and slender Chillies have a strong smarting aroma and their taste ranges from mild to dynamite. The level of heat is dependent on the amount of capsaicin present in the seeds veins and skin of the chillies and is not diminished by cooking storing or freezing. Chillies actually
Buying and storingChillies are available fresh deed powdered flaked in oil in sauce bottled and pickled. When buying fresh chillies look for crisp unwrinkled ones that arewaxy and green. Make sure they are bright and unbroken. The pungency can vary from the mild Kashmir chilli to the dried south indian varieties which have incredible firepower. As with all ground spices chilli powder loses its strength and sparkle after a few months. Whole dried chillies will keep for up to a year if stored in a dry dark place. Exposure lo light can spoil the colour. You can buy several forms of chilli powder like paprika which is mild
Medicinal usesChillies are very high in vitamins A and C and have more vitamin C per gram than many oranges. Capsicum preparations are used as countertrritants for lumbago and rheumatic disorders. They are also added to medicines which relieve sore throats. However an inordinate intake of chillies can bum the lining of the stomach so beware of overindulgence.
Culinary usesChillies or chilli powder are used in virtually every savoury dish in India. All chillies need to be treated with respect. The capsaicin in chillies is highly irritant to skin so be careful when preparing them. Try to avoid contact with the inside of the fruit and wash hands with soap and water immediately after use or wear rubber gloves when chopping. Keep hands away from the face. To reduce the pungency of chillies discard the seeds and soak them in cold salted water. Fot maximum fire slice the chillies and leave the seeds in. To prepare
ThaiMany types are used in Thai cooking. The smallest and amongst the hottest are no more than 1.5cm long and known as bird s eye. Dried red chillies are used extensively. The Thai variety is usually very hot and bright red. Store in a cool dark and dry place preferably in a tightly capped jar or keep in the refrigerator. Chilli fakes are crushed whole dried chillies. Substitute chopped dried chillies or chilli powder. Chilli powder is a hot seasoning spice made by grinding d<
We use fresh red chillies in many of our recipes grilling them and then removing the seeds and skins. We pound them into a paste for Salsa Rossa or chop them and cover with extra virgin olive oil for Chilli Sauce. Chillies vary in strength at the beginning of the harvest they are definitely milder but if they are not too strong we add mint or parsley and/or garlic. At the end of the season when they are very hot you must remove the inner filament as well as the seeds.