Capsaicin is a substance that occurs naturally in chili peppers, giving them their spicy flavor. The hotter the chili, the more capsaicin it contains. There is clinical evidence that capsaicin can be used to treat nerve-related disorders like persistent pain, psoriasis, and neuropathy. Capsaicin also releases endorphins in the brain and puts chili eaters in a better mood.
Several cultivars of peppers are grown all around the world. The chili plant is native to Central American region where it was used as the chief spice ingredients in Mexican cuisine for centuries. It was introduced to the rest of the world by Spanish and Portuguese explorers during 16th and 17th centuries and now grown widely in many parts of the world as an important commercial crop. Chili plant is a perennial small shrub with woody stem growing up to a meter height and bears white colored flowers. The pods are very variable in size, shape, color, and pungency. Depending on the cultivar type, they range from the mild, fleshy, Mexican bell peppers to the tiny, fiery, finger-like chili peppers, commonly grown in Indian subcontinent. Interiorly, each fruit features numerous tiny, white, or cream colored, circular and flat seeds. The seeds are actually clinging around the central white-placenta.
Puradaradasa (1480-1564) wrote the poem about Chilli –
“I saw you green, the turning redder as you ripened, nice to look at and tasty in a dish, but too hot if an excess is used. Saviour of the poor, enhancer of the good food, fiery when bitten, even to think of (the deity) Panduranga Vittala is difficult”
To harvest, chilies can be picked up while they are green or when they reach complete maturity and dried in the plant. Usually, the fruits are picked up by hand when they are matured and turned red. They are then left to dry, which causes them to shrivel. Chilies have a strong spicy taste that comes to them from the active alkaloid compounds: capsaicin, capsanthin and capsorubin.
- Rich in fiber with no fat, cholesterol, or sodium, green chilies are a healthy food with super flavor.
- Vitamin A, which is essential for the health and maintenance of bones, teeth, mucous membranes, eyes, and skin. This vitamin is also essential for healthy eyes—as it produces retina pigmentation and promotes night vision.
- Vitamin C is also abundant in green chili. Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) acts as both an antioxidant and a vitamin. Vitamin C helps the body to maintain and repair wounds, bones, teeth and cartilage. As an antioxidant, it strengthens overall health and helps the body fight infections. Green chilies are also rich in phytochemicals, which provide anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Chilies contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
- Chilies are also good in B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish.