Hot peppers, chilies, paprika, pepperoni, Chile de Arbol are actually varieties of the same vegetable which received different names in different areas of the world. This small hot pepper, Chile de Arbol, is an indispensable ingredient in Mexican cuisine. Hot peppers are also extensively used in Hungarian, Italian and Romanian cuisines.
Origin and Description
Native to Central and Southern America, Chile de Arbol is also known as Capsicum anuum Linnaeus. It belongs to the Solanaceae family and it is a small pepper with the highest content of capsaicin (mainly concentrated in the white inner ribs as well as seeds), a quite hot substance.
There are over 200 varieties of capsicum. Peppers fierceness is measured in Scoville hot units (SHU). Bell peppers are rated with 0 SHU. The world’s hottest pepper is called Naga Jolokia (native to Japan) and reaches 1.000.000 SHU. Chile de Arbol reaches about 15.000-30.000 SHU.
Chilies are useful for stimulating the taste buds and digestive process. They contain 88% water; capsaicin, the hot substance; vitamin C (it is the food that contains the highest percentage, some varieties reach 229 mg); vitamins A, E, K and B; minerals like iron, calcium, sodium, potassium (395 mg), phosphorus, zinc; retinol; carotenoids and alkaloid substances, lecithin etc.
Did you know that capsaicin is the main ingredient in tear gas used for self-defense.
The first historical proofs that chilies were cultivated in Central America date back to the year 7000 BC. Another hypothesis says that peppers come from South America and they were first seen there around 5000 BC. It is for certain that they came to Europe immediately after the discovery of America by Columbus. The first who tried the spicy veggies were the inhabitants of Spain.
There is another archaeological evidence in southern Ecuador placing them in that area 6000 years ago. Christopher Columbus was one of the first Europeans who found chili peppers in one of his transatlantic voyages and he named them like this because they resembled the taste of black pepper known at that time in Europe.
Diego Alvarez Chanca (who lived between 1450 and 1515), physician and scientist who accompanied the navigator during the second expedition, which started in September 1493 in Cadiz, brought the first seeds of chili in Spain writing about its therapeutic and medicinal effects in 1494.
Chile de Arbol relieves inflammation. Capsaicin has strong anti-inflammatory properties. It effectively blocks substance P, associated with the inflammatory processes in the body. Regular consumption of chilies can be an excellent way of prevention against arthritis.
It relieves pain. According to new research in the field, chili peppers can effectively reduce pain caused by arthritis, psoriasis and diabetic neuropathy.
Chilies improve cardiovascular health. It was shown that chili peppers can reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels and prevent blood clots. People who use hot peppers in their diet have lower levels of heart disease and thrombosis.
Chile de Arbol has a beneficial effect in improving digestion. According to Ayurvedic medicine, its sharp taste stimulates the appetite and improves digestion. When a food is well digested, the organism can extract the necessary nutrients and energy. Foods that are not digested well produce toxins.
It also strengthens immunity. The bright red color comes from the high content of beta-carotene, or pro vitamin A. A few spoonfuls of chilies can give your body an extra dose of vitamin C and A, which are essential in preventing infections.
It looks like chilies have become the most popular spices of all the times. They have transformed many cuisines, bringing taste and flavor. In Latin America, Asia, Africa and Orient chilies are “abused” as ingredients in thousands of dishes.
Flavor of chili peppers revolutionized cooking in many countries, especially in tropical ones. Chilies mean at the same time, pleasure and pain. But, paradoxically, the pleasure overcomes and you continue eating chilies, regardless of how your throat or lips are burning.
Hot peppers have a chemical effect on the body, which is highly appreciated by some people. After tasting them for the first time and sensing the fire in the mouth, chili pepper flavor can seem very pleasant and inviting.
Chilies can be preserved, in vinegar or oil, thus representing a great alternative when fresh ones are not available. They can also be eaten raw or dried, ripe or unripe. Dried and ground seeds can be used as a substitute for pepper.
Hot peppers can be used for any spicy food, including canned or smoked meat. Add to hot sauces or serve with soups or stews.
In Mexican cuisine, they pair well with lime and tomatoes, rice and any kind of meat. You will find them in salsa and other hot sauces, along with pasta and other vegetables.
Bottom line, it is very likely to find any kind of chilies and also Chile de Arbol in a lot of different dishes, from stews to jams, from fish to chocolate