Chilli Pepper Facts

Chillies are fruits not vegetables.

Chilli and chille are both the pungent fruit of the capsicum, also called chille or chilli pepper.  But chili is a shortening of chili con carne, a ground beef dish that incorporates chilli powder or chilli peppers.  And Chile, capitalised, is a country.

New Mexicans consume more chillies per capita than any other group in the United States.  The official state vegetables of New Mexico are the chilli and Frijoles (pinto beans).

More than 140 varieties of chillies peppers are grown in Mexico alone.

Chillies are the second most common spice in the world, following salt, 1 out of every 4 people on the planet eat chillies every day.

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Chillies can make foods safer – they are known to reduce harmful bacteria on foods.

Chilli peppers are cholesterol free, low in sodium and calories, rich in Vitamins A and C, and a good source of folic acid, potassium, and Vitamin E.

Low in calories, chilli peppers contain more vitamin A than carrots (especially red chillies). One teaspoon of hot sauce may provide 100% RDA for Vitamin A.

Ounce for ounce, green chilli has more vitamin C than citrus fruits.

For hotness, size matters.  In general, the smaller the pepper, the hotter it will be.  All the world’s most potent peppers are under three inches long.

The heat from a chilli pepper is concentrated in the interior veins or ribs near the seed heart, not in the seeds as is commonly believed (the seeds taste extra hot because they are in close contact with the hot veins).

If, when a chilli pepper is cut open, the veins have a yellowish orange colour in that area, it usually indicates the pepper will be a potent one.

To date, the hottest chilli pepper in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records is the “Red Savina” Habanero.  It measured an amazing 577,000 Scoville Units.


The chilli pepper was first cultivated by the people of Central and South America around 3000 BC.

The first European to “discover” Chilli Peppers was Christopher Columbus in America in 1493. Within a century, chilli peppers’ popularity had spread worldwide.

Two of the founding fathers of America, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, are both known to have grown chillies.

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People who eat chillies are generally healthier.

Capsaicin (a compount within chillies – see below) has been associated with many cures that include lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol and warding off strokes and heart attacks, speeding up metabolism, treating colds and fevers, preventing cancer and pain control.

Chillies help you lose weight by increasing your metabolism.

Chillies make it easier to stick to a healthy diet because the food has more flavour.

Chillies can have an aphrodisiac-like effect on people.

The Mayans rubbed hot peppers on their gums to stop toothaches.  The Incas believed that eyesight was improved by eating chillies. In Mexico, a soup laden with chillies is a typical hangover cure.

Chillies curb your appetite – especially for fatty foods and sweets.


The burning sensation that makes chilli peppers so appealing to culinary thrill-seekers comes from capsaicin or more accurately a collection of compounds called capsaicinoids.

When spicy foods are consumed, the common reaction of the body is to sweat, particularly on the forehead. The technical term for this is gustatory perspiration.

Too much heat? Do not drink water- capsaicin which is an oil, will not mix with water but instead, will distribute to more parts of the mouth.

Capsaicin is a colourless, pungent, crystalline compound, C18, H27NO3. The shorter the molecular chain, the hotter the pepper.  It is a flavourless, odourless chemical concentrated in the veins of chillies and peppers.

Capsaicinoids irritate the trigeminal nerve cells (the pain receptors in the mouth, nose and stomach), releasing the chemical messenger “Substance P.”  This causes the brain to produce endorphins, the morphine-like natural painkillers that give the body a sense of well-being.  The “runners’ high” is caused by these same endorphins.

The scientific journal Toxicon reported that drinking a quart and a half of Louisiana-style hot sauce will cause death by respiratory failure if your body weight is 140 pounds or less.


[wordbay](dried chillies, fresh chillies, whole chillies, chilli sauce)[/wordbay]

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