Hi there, I am chilli pepper. Hot, sassy, bold…and sometimes beautiful! My journey thus far has been a perfect adventure and I must share it with you.
Columbus had little idea that his intentions to discover shortest possible route to the land of spices could change the global kitchens entirely. Yes that’s true! Columbus discovered America, but in the process found me – the red-hot chilli.
I know…I know spice is a passionate subject among culinary experts. Still, the credit of rivalling black pepper, the most valuable possession of that time goes to me. I enjoyed every bit of attention I got during and after my discovery.
Once I was domesticated, my spread around the world was unstoppable. As an ingredient I rendered a unique spice and fiery flavour to food that most began to love, or, better still, crave.
The secret behind my taste lies not in the seeds or flesh, but in the heat that is concentrated in my inner membranes. The pungent heat comes from capsaicin, the chemical compound which gives chilli its characteristic burn.
If there’s a secret to my pungency, there’s a secret to relieve it. I probably shouldn’t reveal it, nevertheless here it is. Scorched palates, burned lips, dozed senses and intense sweating – the obvious signs of tasting a nasty bit of me. A swig of beer, a gulp of milk and yogurt works better than water to quench that heat away.
The heat generated after consuming me is measurable. That’s right! An American chemist Wilbur Scoville in 1912 invented a scale, known as Scoville heat units (SHU) that measured my spiciness. Anything above 200,000 SHU usually reduces you to tears and unbearable scorching sensation.
‘Chiliheads’ have been too benevolent to make me but a humble spice. Over the years I have grown into brightest colours and craziest shapes. The competition to create fieriest version of me have been cutthroat, mostly secretive and flanked by patent wars.
That’s why my Scoville heat unit keeps getting nastier. While Carolina Reaper at 2,200,000 SHU is presently the hottest chilli on earth; Trinidad Scorpion Butch T at 1,463,700 SHU and Bhut Jolokia (or Ghost Pepper) at 1,041,427 SHU are only few Scoville heat units below. These are some of the deadliest chillies in the world and actually blister skin. You require gloves on hands while handling them. A wide variety of chilli pepper can be bought from Shimla Hills.
To my sheer disappointment though, I have been often negatively portrayed for my use in occult and supernatural practices. However, it is seldom realised that I not only make a potent talisman, but also get used by shamans in magic spells to ward off evil.
In life if there are things to be embarrassed of, there are things to be proud of. I humbly boast of my relieving medicinal properties and patriotic zeal. Capsaicin, the chemical compound responsible for my pungency is also the health delivering component. Loads of health benefits in the form of vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene and other potent antioxidants are hidden within me. I am low in fat, low in cholesterol and low in calories, which is good news for diet conscious people. My spiciness has also found good use in warfare and protective weapons like pepper grenade and pepper sprays.
As spice I am ardently loved, even if it means tears, sweat and excruciating burn. People actually love this adrenaline rush, and want to enjoy it again and again. This is possibly the reason behind hot sauce industries to have grown so rapidly. A new report says that hot sauce production is among 10 fastest-growing industries in the U.S. I’ve heard the food industry being rife with predictions of hot sauce production being a $1.3 billion industry in U.S. by 2017. That’s awesome!
It is sometimes difficult for me to understand human’s intension to satiate their taste buds. But I love my job! With my pungency getting better-and-better, I see a bright future.
I regret just one thing which is also my life’s most confusing puzzle – Why ‘sambar’ relishes my taste and mammoth elephants run for their life on encountering me. Samba is a large deer native to the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. You don’t know how bad this hurts my pride. I am feared by humans, animals and elephants, but a ‘deer’ can just gobble me down…that’s really agonizing!