Chili peppers have been a part of the human diet since at least 7500 BC. There is archaeological evidence at sites located in a tropical lowland area of southwestern Ecuador that chili peppers were domesticated more than 6000 years ago, the chilli grains show that peppers were among the oldest domesticated foods in the hemisphere.
Chillis, come in all shapes, sizes and colours ranging from tiny pointed extremely hot, birds eye chilli to the large mild fleshy peppers like the anaheim. Indigenous to Central and South America and the West Indies, facts1they have been cultivated there for thousands of years before the Spanish conquest, which eventually introduced them to the rest of the world. Mexican cooking is one of the worlds oldest cuisines, the explorers of the New World brought back the tomatoes and peppers, red hot chillis, avocados, various beans, vanilla and chocolate, these flavours were to change the flavour of Europe.
Today there are probably 400 different chillis grown, and are one of the most widely cultivated crops today, grown from the Far East, China, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia to India to Mexico. Some of the more commonly available fresh chillis include jalapeño, serrano, poblano, yellow wax, birds eye, habarnero and cayenne are now being stocked by many stores and markets. If you cannot find the required chilli called for in a recipe try substituting with one of similar size and heat scale, or grow your own as they are as easy to grow as tomatoes especially in a greenhouse in pots. In the next few pages different varieties can be seen accompanied by a picture with recipes, sauces, snacks and growing advice and also where to purchase the seeds or chillis.
Chillis are loaded with vitamin A, a potent antioxidant and boost to the immune system. As the podshealth pic mature and darken, high quantities of vitamin C are gradually replaced with beta carotene and the capsaicin levels are at their highest. Due to these capsaicin levels, some believe that eating chillis may have an extra thermic affect, temporarily speeding up the metabolic rate, hence burning off calories at a faster rate. Whatever, you certainly do sweat and actually cool down in hot climates as sweat evaporates. Your nose runs, your head clears … you can breath! And with that extra flow of saliva, the gastric juices also flow. The alkaloids from the capsaicin stimulate the action of stomach and intestine improving the whole digestion process!
health pic2Beyond soothing gastric wonders and taste delights, the very nature of fiery capsaicin has been medicinally beneficial down through the ages and put to use for some chronic health woes. These same heat inducing properties have a cumulative effect and over time are believed to alleviate pain when used in transdermal treatments for arthritis, nerve disorders (neuralgia), shingles and severe burns … even cluster headaches. The mucus thinning properties promote coughing and can act as an expectorant for asthmatic conditions. Other claims are boosts to the immune system due to the antioxidants, lowering cholesterol, and blood thinning properties beneficial for the heart and blood vessels.
CHILLI PEPPERS IN ASIA
They were introduced to South Asia in the 1500s 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, Indonesia, Korea and Japan. They were incorporated into the local cuisines.
An alternate account for the spread of chili peppers is that the Portuguese got the pepper from Spain, and cultivated it in India. The chili pepper figures heavily in the cuisine of the Goan region of India, which was the site of a Portuguese colony. Chili peppers journeyed from India, through Central Asia and Turkey, to Hungary, where it became the national spice in the form of paprika.
from South Asia to China and Southeast Asia is not recorded in much detail, but it is assumed that local, Arab and European traders carried the chiles via traditional trading routes along the coasts and great waterways such as the Ganges
Chillies are a native plant of the Americas originating somewhere in either Central America or northern South America. There is thought have been one original variety from which the plethora available now have been developed.
The earliest chilli growers were the indigenous peoples of the central Americas, who had emigrated from northern Europe around 8,000-10,000 BC.
Archaeologists have estimated that humans began farming chillies between 5,000 BC and 3,400 BC, which makes them one of the oldest crops cultivated by man.
The spelling of the word chile is the Hispaniolised version of the Nahuatl word chili (Nahuatl was the language of the inhabitants of the central highlands of Mexico when the Spaniards arrived and is still spoken in many modified forms today).
According to food historian, Sophie Coe, the first chilli sauces were developed by the Mayan Indians around 1500-1000 BC and were used for tortilla dipping. These sauces initially consisted of chilli powder and water, however, the later addition of other ingredients led to the development of the sauces that are now associated with this region.
Despite the Mayans having a head start over the Aztecs by a thousand years or so, it was the Aztecs that truly adopted the chilli into their entire culture. The best example of this was recorded by the Franciscan monk Bernadino de Sahagun in 1529. While fasting to appease their blood-thirsty gods, the Aztec priests required two abstentations by the faithful: sex and chillies”.
The invention of the chipotle is attributed to the Teotihuacans whose civilisation reached it’s peak around 200AD. At that time the city was the sixth largest in the world. The Aztecs then adopted them into their culture and as with all other chillies, took them to new heights in both production and use.
By the time Columbus arrived in the Americas, the Aztecs were growing not only the jalapeño, pasilla, ancho, and serrano, but the arbol and the mirasol. The sixteenth-century Spanish chronicler Fray Bernardino de Sahagœn wrote that in an Aztec market there were “hot green chillies, smoked chillies, water chillies, tree chillies, flea chillies, and sharp-pointed red chillies.” He noted that the Aztecs classified chillies into six categories based not only on level of pungency (high to low), but also on the type of pungency (sharp to broad).
The earliest known association of chillies and cocoa comes from the Ceren archaeological site in El Salvador. There were found a number of ceramic storage vessels containing both chilli and cacao seeds, one with the two separated by a piece of cotton gauze. This could represent some of the ingredients for an early mole sauce.
By the time the Spanish arrived chillies and cacao pods were used as tributes and tax payments to the Aztec Emperor Montezuma who was particularly partial to the combination. One of the chroniclers travelling with Hernan Cortes observed, “The great Montezuma liked his cup of hot cocoa flavoured with vanilla, honey, and spiked with a good dose of red chilli.”
The Aztecs also found other uses for chillies. Among the images in the Mendocino Codex—a visual record of Aztec life—is a painting of a father punishing his 11-year-old son by forcing the boy to inhale the smoke from dried chillies roasting on the fireplace.
Aztec women believed that chilli powder made the skin beautiful and applied it as a paste made from mixing chilli powder and their urine !
The Incas worshipped the chilli as a holy item, and considered the plant to be one of the four brothers of their creation myth, as recorded by Garcilaso de la Vega in 1609 in his Royal Commentaries of the Incas.
Columbus arrived in Oct 12, 1492 and proceeded to make a number of misassumptions. He believed he was in the East Indies (Indonesia) because that was where he set out to for to develop a short cut for the spice trade. He then proceeded to try chillies as part of the local fare, and must have assumed they were a red variety of pepper, subsequently labelling them red pepper(s) – a name that refuses to die.
That’s it for the origins and and history of early uses through to the arrival of Columbus.