Oh we love our spice around Weekender towers. We really, really do. We think spice is twice as nice, in fact. So when we found out in our extensive research that it’s National Chili Month, obviously this appealed to our sense of highly developed epicurean, um, ism. There is literally nothing better on earth than a mixed keema nan kebab from Shahin’s on Bangor High Street (the second longest in the UK), with chilli and mint raita. (The mint and chilli’s on the kebab, not on the high street. At least not at first,) Here’s some complex and neutrino-heavy factual analysis that we copied from Stephen Hawking’s new cookbook, A Brief History of Thyme.
In 1902 Wibur Scoville developed a method for measuring the strength of capsicum in a given pepper, which originally meant tasting a diluted version of a pepper and giving it a value. Nowadays it can be done more accurately with the help of computers to rate the peppers in Scoville units, which indicate parts per million of capsaicin.
The fiery sensation of chilis is caused by capsaicin, a potent chemical that survives both cooking and freezing, but apart from the burning sensatscovilleion it also triggers the brain to produce endorphins, natural painkillers that promote a sense of well being.
Capsaicin has long been used as a pest control by chili plants themselves, deterring mammals from eating the pods but having no effect on birds which have a very different nervous system.
In Zimbabwe and parts of India farmers plant a barrier crop of chilis or smear fences with chilli to deter elephants from their crops.
Drinking milk or placing a spoonful of yoghurt in your mouth is the best way to relieve the burning sensation of chilis as water will just spread the capsaicin oil around. Weekender also discovered that sugar works.
The world’s largest curry was cooked up by 60 chefs in New Delhi in June 2008, a 13 tonne biryani including 187 pounds of chillies and 6600 pounds of rice and called for the use of 3 cranes and a 3-foot high furnace.
Chillis can help fight off winter colds and eating them certainly releases endorphins that helps lift the spirits. Chilis are packed with vitamins, containing more Vitamin C than oranges, more Vitamin A than carrots and such high levels of Vitamin D that some athletes eat them prior to exercising to reduce the risk of injury.
Chilis are natural antioxidants and can help to prevent cancer.
Ironically, the country Chile has no word for chili and also doesn’t get that chilly.
Capsacin has been known to reduce the amount of insulin the body needs to lower blood sugar levels after a meal by up to about 60 per cent which could be of benefit to diabetics and the overweight.
The pith or placenta of the chili is the most potent part – not the seeds.
Aztec women believed that chili powder made the skin beautiful and applied it as a paste made from mixing chili powder and their urine.
The first chili sauces were developed by the Mayan Indians around 1500-1000 BCE and were used for tortilla dipping.
The band The Red Hot Chili Peppers was so-named due to a misprint in their first ever demo, which due to budgetary constraints was printed on the back of old supermarket sale flyers.
Archaeologists have estimated that humans began farming chilis between 5,000 BC and 3,400 BC, which makes them one of the oldest crops cultivated by man.
The chili belongs to the Solanaceae family of vegetables, which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, and aubergines.
All unripe chilis are green. When ripe, they can be shades of red, yellow, and orange, as well as green. Size and colour are not necessarily indicators of heat.
Another way to cool the heat: starchy foods tend to absorb the heat: a popular Mexican cure is to consume beer to cool the burn.
In The Simpsons episode El Viaje de Nuestro Jomer, Homer eats a dangerous Guatamalan pepper which sends him off into a hallucination in which he meets a talking coyote spirit guide played by Johnny Cash,
Chilli con carne is supposed to have loads of cumin, garlic, beans and paprika in it. It is a dish of magnificent aroma: beefy, fabulous, rich and punchy. What it isn’t, is a kind of slobbery-blobbery pile of sub-bolognaise with a tiny drop of Shurfine Sweet Chilli sauce waved near the cooking bowl. Just sayin.
Chili quote of the day
“Americans can eat garbage, provided you sprinkle it liberally with ketchup, mustard, chili sauce, Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, or any other condiment which destroys the original flavour of the dish.” – Henry Miller
Pure Capsaicin 15,000,000 – 16, 000,000
US Police Pepper Spray – 5,000,000
Naga Viper Pepper 1,359,000
Infinity Pepper – 1,176,182
Bhut Jolokia Pepper – 1,041,427
Dorset Naga Pepper 923,000
Red Savina Pepper 350,000 – 580,000
Scotch Bonnet 100,000 – 325,000
Jamaican Hot Pepper 100,000 – 200,000
Rocoto Pepper 50,000 – 100,000
Pequin Pepper 75.000
Super Chilli Pepper 40,000 – 50,000
Cayenne Pepper 30,000 – 50,000
Tabasco Pepper 30,000 – 50,000
de Arbol Pepper 15,000 – 30,000
Aji Pepper 12,000 – 30,000
Serrano pepper 5,000 – 23,000
Hot Wax Pepper 5,000 – 10,000
Chipotle 5,000 – 10,000
Jalapeno Pepper 2,500 – 8,000
Guajilla Pepper 2,500 – 5,000
Tabasco Sauce 2,500
Pasilla Pepper 1,000 – 2,000
Ancho Pepper 1,000 – 2,000
Anaheim Pepper 500 – 2,500
Nu Mex Pepper 500 – 1,000
Santa Fe Grande Pepper 500 – 700
Pimento Pepper 100 – 500
Bell Pepper 0
Check out Joe Shooman of Weekender trying the world’s hottest chili sauce here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sb7O7A6r3mM