Chillies have a very long history of human consumption, with evidence going back over 9000 years. Cultivation appears to have started in Mexico 6000 years ago, and since then it has spread around the globe becoming a key component of a number of different world cuisines.
By the time Christopher Columbus reached the Carribean at the end of the 15th century chillis were being grown there too. The distinctive taste of the plant got it the name 'pepper' due to the fact that it was in some ways similar to black pepper, a very valuable commodity.
While it's hard to imagine Indian cuisine without the heat of Chilli it's recorded that the plant was brought to Goa in India by the Portugese. From there it made it's way West into Europe, losing much of it's heat on the way and eventually transforming into Paprika.
The heat of Chilli is caused by chemicals known as capsaicinoids, mainly capsaicin. It's usually quantified in Scoville Heat Units (SHU) , a measure of the dilution needed before the heat becomes undetectable by a taster. These days liquid chromatography is used to accurately measure the concentration of capsaicinoids.
2,500 - 10,000 SHU
A relatively mild chilli of the species Capsicum annuum. Widely used.
80,000 - 600,000 SHU
Very hot chilli of the species Capsicum Chinense.
Bird's Eye Chillies
100,000 - 225,000 SHU
While they are of the same species as Jalapeño, Capsicum anuum, the small Bird's Eye is hotter than the average Habanero. They are used in South East Asian cuisines.
1,000 - 2,000 SHU
Another variation of Capsicum anuum. Commonly used in Mexican cuisine.
The smoking process imparts a sweet dark flavour long appreciated in Mexico and now spreading in popularity. Recently, due to chemicals in smoke, traditionally produced chipotles have fallen foul of EU regulations. Camstar are able to offer suitable alternatives.
|Martin Hoxworth - Group Sales Manager: martincamstar.co.uk|