Botanical Name: Capsicumannum (and frutescens)

Family: Solanceae

Hindi Name: Lal mirch

Chillies are native to Mozambique, but is now cultivated in most tropical and subtropical regions.

Among the main producers of chillies, India has an important standing. Chillies were first brought to Europe during one of Columbus's expeditions, but there was not much interest for it as black pepper seemed a much more promising ingredient. However, in Spanish and Portuguese colonies chillies did find a place. One of the reasons for chillies being adopted more easily than any other spice was the difficulty that the farmers had in growing other pungent spices, as they were easy to cultivate. The humid climate in tropical regions, the hot regions of North India, and the extreme cold and dry seasons of the Himalayas in Tibet were perfect for its growth.

In North India, chillies are mostly used in their dry state. These chillies are intensively fiery, intensively coloured and intensively aromatic. The variety from Kashmir has the best colour and taste. In India, the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are the major chilli-producing areas, and no country in the world has so much area and production of chilli as India. While consumption of chilli is the highest in India, the maximum export is also from this country.

Chillies are hot and pungent, and once accustomed to their fiery pungency, it is surprising how many flavours they may show: fruity, earthy, smoky, fresh, sweet and flowery are just some of them. Mexico offers the greatest variety of the different flavours of chillies. The Red Savina is commonly regarded as the hottest chilli on earth.

Chillies show more or less the aroma contents as paprika, but their contents in capsaicin and related compounds is much higher. Chillies are also called red peppers or capsicums.

The plant is a variable annual small shrub which has a single flower and usually pendent fruits. The long and oval fruits are bright dark green in colour, and become crimson red on ripening. While they are broader at the base, they are conical at the tip, growing to 2.5-15 cm.

Its composition is as follows:

  • Protein: 15.9 %
  • Fat: 6.2 %
  • Fibre: 30.2 %
  • Carbohydrates: 31.6 %
  • Ash: 6.1 %
  • Calcium: 0.16 %
  • Phosphorus: 0.37 %
  • Iron: 2.30 %
  • Ascorbic acid: 50 mg/ 100g

Chilli is a stimulant, tonic and carminative. It is possibly the purest and best stimulant in herbal medicine. It produces natural warmth and helps blood circulation. It eases weakness of the stomach and intestines. It is added to tonics and can prevent development of colds and fevers.

It is a powerful heart and general stimulant. Externally, a part of chilli is used as a rubefacient (reddening of skin) and as a local stimulant in tonsilitis. It is used as a tincture to stimulate as an adjunct in dyspepsia or indigestion, loss of appetite and flatulence. In cases of cholera it has a wonderful effect. It is useful in seasickness, typhoid fever, and also in chronic fever.

Green chillies form fresh pungent vegetables while the red chillies constitute a valuable spice. Hot chilli pepper are a powerful anti-coagulant food, effective in preventing blood clots. It is beneficial in the treatment of depression, respiratory diseases, loss of hair, and aches and pain. They are used in the preparation of curries, pickles and as condiments.

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