Green chilli or chilli peppers are a vital part of every cuisine in the world and also an important ingredient used in human diet since at least 7500 BC. Archaelogical evidences show that in southwestern Ecuador chilli pepper was domesticated about 6000 year ago and is one of the first cultivated crops in Central and South Americas.
Green chillies are fresh and then turn red when dried. In case of chillies like jalapeno, habanero or Serrano, they become red and are still used in the same form. The green chillies in cooked or raw form give a fiery hot flavor. To reduce the fiery hot flavor the seeds and inner membranes could be removed which is effective at reducing the heat of the pod.
Christopher Columbus was the first European to come across them (in the Caribbean), and called them “peppers” because they, like black and white pepper of the Piper genus known in Europe, have a spicy hot taste unlike other foodstuffs. This had been introduced as Europe chilis and was grown in the gardens of Spanish and Portugese monasteries. The monks experimented with these chillies and discovered that their pungency could substitute the black peppercorns which at times were very costly as they were used as legal currency in some countries.
In 1493, Diego Alvarez Chanca, a physician on the Columbus second voyage to West Indies had brought the first chilli peppers to Spain and wrote about their medicinal properties and effects in 1494. From Mexico, the Spanish colonies spread this rapidly in Asia into Philippines and then to India, China, Indonesia, Korea and Japan which was included in their local cuisines. An alternate report says that the Portuguese got the pepper from Spain and cultivated in India. This shows clearly the usage of Chilli pepper in the cuisine of the Goan region in India which was the place of the Portuguese colony. Vindaloo is an Indian interpretation of a Portuguese dish. From here the journey moved on to Central Asia and Turkey to Hungary where it became the national spices in the form of paprika.
Chillies are an important ingredient in almost all curries (vegetables or meat), soup and food recipes. There are a variety of chillies with different colors, sizes and in fresh or dried form. Chili is a staple fruit in Bhutan and ema datsi is the famous recipe that is entirely made of chili mixed with local cheese. The common species of chili peppers are: Capsicum annuum that includes vegetables like bell peppers, wax, cayenne, jalapenos and chiltepin are few of the most common varieties. Chiles de arbol, mlagueta, Tabasco and Thai pepper comes under the Capsicum frutescens and the hottest pepper like the naga, habanero, datil and scotch bonnet are from the Capsicum chinense family. Capsicum pubescens includes the South American rocoto peppers where as aji peppers fall under Capsicum baccatum.
Normally chilli peppers are commonly divided into three groups: Bell peppers, sweet peppers and hot peppers. Capsaicin is the substances that give chili peppers their intensity when ingested or applied topically. In India, green chillies are extensively used in many varieties of chutneys like the coconut chutney; tomato chutney, coriander green chutney etc and they are also used in various Indian recipes and curry pastes apart from Thai and Chinese recipes. Chutney is quite similar to the Indian pickle, salsa of Latin America and the European relish.
Green chillies are rich in vitamins and low in fat and cholesterol and are considered as an excellent ingredient that enhances flavor and taste of the food. There are number of ways where one can enjoy the taste of the chillies by using them fresh, dried, ground, canned or pickled. They have got many health benefits as they are rich in vitamin A and C while the dried ones are higher in vitamin A and the fresh higher in vitamin C. The green chillies are also rich in vitamins B and E and a good source of iron and potassium. They are free of fat and cholesterol which helps block the body’s absorption of cholesterol while remaining low in calories. Diet experts say that they contain six times the amount of vitamin C as in a single orange.
Capsaicin, the active chemical stored in the veins and seeds has many nutritional and health benefits. It helps dissolve blood clots and aids in digestion.. It actually burns calories by increasing your metabolism and curbs your appetite. Capsaicin also releases endorphins in the brain and puts chili eaters in a better mood. As the capsaicin is truly fiery hot one needs to be careful not to touch any sensitive parts of your body after handling the chillies. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly well after touching chilies.
The nutritional values per 100 g for green peppers are:
Energy: 166 kJ (40 kcal)
Carbohydrates: 8.8 g
Sugars: 5.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.5 g
Fat: 0.4 g
Protein: 1.9 g
Water: 88 g
Vitamin C: 144 mg
Iron: 1 mg
Magnesium: 23 mg
Potassium: 322 mg