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Welcome to our home-grown "rain forest" of chili peppers

Source: Best Health Magazine; January/February 2010

It is a long-standing myth that spicy food exacerbates ulcers and other stomach ailments. But research shows hot chili peppers actually protect the stomach lining and may prevent the gastric damage associated with anti-inflammatory painkillers. They are high in nutrients such as calcium plus vitamins A and C, and there’s some evidence that hot chilies can reduce cardiovascular disease risk, help prevent diabetes and boost metabolism. They may also have some ability to prevent cancer.

Just don’t go overboard: A Mexican study found people who ate the equivalent of nine to 25 jalapeños per day had a slightly raised risk of stomach cancer. (It shouldn’t be too tough for even hot-pepper lovers to stay under that limit!)

Toronto gastroenterologist Dr. Khursheed Jeejeebhoy sees plenty of patients in his office who avoid hot chilies unnecessarily. ‘Whenever people have stomach problems, they’ll say, ‘I completely avoid spicy foods in order to heal my stomach.’ There is no evidence they have to do that. Spices in moderation are to be enjoyed, and there is no evidence that spicy food is bad for you,’ says Jeejeebhoy, who is an emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

In fact, there is a lot of evidence that it’s very good for you. Recent research tells us that hot chili peppers are an up-and-coming health power. A laboratory study in the United Kingdom, for instance, found that capsaicin, which is responsible for the burning sensation chilies provide, can kill lung and pancreatic cancer cells without harming the surrounding cells.Researchers believe this may explain why people living in Mexico and India, who eat a spicy diet, tend to have lower rates of some cancers than those eating a bland Western diet.

Two Australian studies provide more good news: One discovered that adding chilies to meals may protect against the buildup of cholesterol in the blood. Another found that regularly eating hot chilies reduces insulin requirements, which may have implications in the prevention and treatment of diabetes.

So what about their effects on the stomach? Hot chilies actually decrease the output of gastric acid, says a Hungarian study. They can also reduce the stomach bleeding associated with taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents such as Aspirin. A further bonus: A study in Singapore found that eating chilies daily reduced the risk of peptic ulcers by 53 percent.

And that burning sensation you get from hot food? It’s the capsaicin stimulating your nerve endings. ‘It’s a bad feeling,’ says Jeejeebhoy, ‘but there’s no evidence that it produces a cut or causes an ulceration or injury of any sort in the gastrointestinal tract.’ The best remedy to the burning sensation is to build up a tolerance, he says.

Source Wikipedia December 2016

Chili peppers have been a part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BCE. The most recent research shows that chili peppers were domesticated more than 6000 years ago in Mexico, in the region that extends across southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca to southeastern Veracruz,[6] and were one of the first self-pollinating crops cultivated in Mexico, Central and parts of South America.[7]

Peru is considered the country with the highest cultivated Capsicum diversity because it is a center of diversification where varieties of all five domesticates were introduced, grown, and consumed in pre-Columbian times. Bolivia is considered to be the country where the largest diversity of wild Capsicum peppers are consumed. Bolivian consumers distinguish two basic forms: ulupicas, species with small round fruits including C. eximiumC. cardenasiiC. eshbaughii, and C. caballeroi landraces; and arivivis with small elongated fruits including C. baccatum var. baccatum and C. chacoense varieties.[8]

Christopher Columbus was one of the first Europeans to encounter them (in the Caribbean), and called them "peppers" because they, like black and white pepper of the Piper genus known in Europe, have a spicy hot taste unlike other foodstuffs. Upon their introduction into Europe, chilies were grown as botanical curiosities in the gardens of Spanish and Portuguese monasteries. Christian monks experimented with the culinary potential of chili and discovered that their pungency offered a substitute for black peppercorns, which at the time were so costly that they were used as legal currency in some countries.[9]

Chilies were cultivated around the globe after Indigenous people shared them with travelers.[10][11] Diego Álvarez Chanca, a physician on Columbus' second voyage to the West Indies in 1493, brought the first chili peppers to Spain and first wrote about their medicinal effects in 1494.

The spread of chili peppers to Asia was most likely a natural consequence of its introduction to Portuguese traders (Lisbon was a common port of call for Spanish ships sailing to and from the Americas) who, aware of its trade value, would have likely promoted its commerce in the Asian spice trade routes then dominated by Portuguese and Arab traders.[12] It was introduced in India by the Portuguese towards the end of 15th century.[13] Today chilies are an integral part of South Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines.

There is a verifiable correlation between the chili pepper geographical dissemination and consumption in Asia and the presence of Portuguese traders, India and southeast Asia being obvious examples.

The chili pepper features heavily in the cuisine of the Goan region of India, which was the site of a Portuguese colony (e.g., vindaloo, an Indian interpretation of a Portuguese dish). Chili peppers journeyed from India,[14] through Central Asia and Turkey, to Hungary, where they became the national spice in the form of paprika.

An alternate, although not so plausible account (no obvious correlation between its dissemination in Asia and Spanish presence or trade routes), defended mostly by Spanish historians, was that from Mexico, at the time a Spanish colony, chili peppers spread into their other colony the Philippines and from there to IndiaChinaIndonesia. To Japan, it was brought by the Portuguese missionaries in 1542, and then later, it was brought to Korea.

In 1995 archaeobotanist Hakon Hjelmqvist published an article in Svensk Botanisk Tidskrift claiming there was evidence for the presence of chili peppers in Europe in pre-Columbian times.[15] According to Hjelmqvist, archaeologists at a dig in St Botulf in Lund found a Capsicum frutescens in a layer from the 13th century. Hjelmqvist thought it came from Asia. Hjelmqvist also said that Capsicum was described by the Greek Theophrastus (370–286 BCE) in his Historia Plantarum, and in other sources. Around the first century CE, the Roman poet Martialis (Martial) mentioned "Piperve crudum" (raw pepper) in Liber XI, XVIII, allegedly describing them as long and containing seeds (a description which seems to fit chili peppers - but could also fit the long pepper, which was well known to ancient Romans).