Chili is one of the most versatile spices around. The numerous varieties of the fruit give dishes from all around the world their fiery, fruity flavor.
Chili as a Spice
Chili is a universal spice and adds its characteristic heat to a wide variety of dishes, be it in ripe or unripe form, fresh or dried, smoked, roasted or in pastes. The Scoville scale is used to measure how hot chilies are, which can range from mild to burning hot. The humble bell pepper measures 0 on the scale. The flavor of chilies also varies from one variety to another: Fruity, sweet, nutty or smoky, chili is found in dishes around the world. One of the most well-known varieties of chili is the cayenne chili pepper, which is used to make the popular cayenne pepper.
The hot part of the chili is in the placenta — the light-colored dividing walls inside the fruit. To avoid adding too much fire to a dish, the seeds and placenta can be removed from the fresh or dried fruit. This way, the dish gets more of the flavor and less of the capsaicin, which is what provides the heat. Chili can be used to add flavor to virtually any dish — not just soups and stews like chili con carne and curries. It goes particularly well with fish, meat, vegetables, soups, sauces, legumes and even chocolate.
Use milk, cacao or mature Parmesan to extinguish the "chili fire." Be careful — water has the opposite effect!
Chili peppers are a berry fruit and are related to paprika and tomatoes. Long ago, Christopher Columbus brought the seeds back to Europe from his expeditions to Central America, and from there the chili plant spread to Africa and Asia. Today, there are over 2000 different varieties of chili worldwide, all varying in color, heat and flavor. The hottest of the red, green, yellow, orange, purple and even black fruits is the Bhut Jolokia chili from India — with a Scoville rating of one million, it’s the frontrunner among chilis when it comes to heat.
- Scientific Name
- Capsicum annuum, C. frutescens, C. chinense etc.
- Nightshade family (Solanaceae)
- Other Names
- Cayenne pepper, chili pepper, red pepper, capsicum
- Central and South America