Dec 16, 2013

Posted by Shanell Calloway in Shopping | Comments Off on A Brief History of Chili Peppers

A Brief History of Chili Peppers

Why are chilies spicy?

Chili peppers such as the habaneros pepper which is the basis for El Yucateco sauce are all relatives of tomatoes aubergine and potatoes, except they are fruits and not vegetables. The heat source is not concentrated in the seed but in the along the xylem and phloem vessels inside the pepper itself. The active ingredient in all chili peppers is called a chemical Capsaicin. The substance gives chilies their spicy taste and stimulates the taste buds on the mammalian tongue (including ours), which are normally respond to heat and pain. The response tricks the brain into thinking that the tongue is burning; in nature chili is an irritant to mammals.

Birds do not respond in the same way because they can tolerate the taste of the pepper and the seed itself is not affected by avian digestive systems, which means the chili seed themselves are dispersed over a wide terrestrial range. From an evolutionary perspective this strategy stopped mammals eating the chili and digesting the seeds. This of course unraveled some 6-8000 years ago when wild species were first selectively bred; the rest as they say is history.

A Global spice

Today only salt is used more than chilies to add flavor to the food we eat. This simple fact is that El Yucateco products and the chilies it is made from add taste and kick to otherwise bland foods. In addition chilies were used to stop food going bad and had a wide variety of medical uses such as treating wounds, the active molecule capsaicin disrupts some bacterial pathogens. In addition it was (and still is), used in traditional Latin American remedies as a local anesthetic and to treat tooth and ear ache.

The Chili pepper was introduced to the test of the world in the 15th and 16th centuries by Spanish and Portuguese explorers. By the early 17th century chilies were established in Japan, China, Africa, and India and had been transported to the American colonies of the British Empire.

Today over a quarter of adults around the world eat a chili dish or use a sauce such as El Yucateco every day. In the United States each adult eats over 6 pounds of chili every year, higher than the consumption of some leguminous vegetables.

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