Chillies are a fruit of a plant called ‘Capsicum,’ the green varieties are under-ripe, and become red when ripe.
Long chillies in red, green and yellow are mild and popular, suitable for most people, and still have plenty of flavour. The jalapeno chilli is quite hot, and small green or red birds eye chillies are super hot. The serrano chilli, like a small red bullet, is exceptionally hot, as is the orange habanero, while the banana chilli is one of the mildest chillies available, perfect for those who are sensitive to the heat.
When selecting chillies from the store or market, look for smooth, glossy skin that is firm to touch. Chillies should last for up to a week either stored in a paper bag at room temperature, or wrapped in plastic in the fridge. Ensure you wash your hands thoroughly once you’ve finished chopping the chillies, as they can cause skin to sting, especially around the eye area - otherwise wear rubber gloves while handling them.
Chillies are versatile little peppers in the kitchen. Add finely diced chilli to chicken and lemongrass soup, roasted tomatoes with a sprinkle of brown sugar, whole fish with lime and coriander, beef and avocado tacos, prawn and rockmelon salad or even roasted vegie stacks. Roasted chillies have a wonderfully unique flavour just pop fresh chillies under a hot grill, or on some hot rocks, and turn occasionally for about ten minutes. Put them into a plastic bag while still warm until they’re cool enough to peel, then enjoy with whatever dish you would normally add chilli to. The heat is located in the seeds and the soft white membrane, so if you prefer a much milder heat in your cooking, scrape them out before slicing the chilli.
Chillies are indigenous to Central and South America and the West Indies, they’ve been cultivated there for thousands of years. Today there are about 400 different types of chillies grown throughout China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Mexico, and elsewhere.
The sizzling sensation of chillies is caused by capsaicin, a chemical that also triggers the brain to produce endorphins, natural painkillers that promote a sense of well being. This heat can cause excess sweating and a runny nose, but can also clear a blocked sinus. Extra saliva gets produced, which gets the gastric juices flowing, plus the alkaloids from the capsaicin stimulate the action of stomach and intestine improving the digestion process. Chillies, especially red ones, are loaded with vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant, and vitamin C. In addition, they are a good source of most B vitamins, while also high in magnesium and iron, and very high in potassium.
Easy to grow in warm climates or under glass with a long growing season, many varieties make cute and tasty indoor pot plants – a perfect present!
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