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To most people, the idea of taking a big bite of something loaded with chilipepper is frightening. The burn, the fear is too much. To others of us, the idea is delightful. It's not masochism. There are some of us who have had the fortune to have experienced a full-on capsaicin assault and learned what lives on the other side: flavor.
When I was young, a friend of mine took me out for pizza. I was carried away in conversation, and as he was buying, I didn't involve myself with the ordering process. After a while, the pizza arrived. I grabbed a piece, took a huge bite and discovered that my friend had ordered cheese and jalapenos. That's all. I had the equivalent of two full jalapeno peppers in my mouth.
Prior to that day, I had always avoided hot foods. My parents had never been without fresh peppers and jars of peppers in vinegar as a sauce, but my early encounters convinced me that hot food was for other people, and I was that guy who had enough sense to not injure myself on them.
So, here I was, with a mouthful of what, at that time, I would have considered a lethal dosage of pepper. This presented a problem. My parents had raised me to be appreciative of a gift, and this food was a gift. I chewed and swallowed then braced for the impact. It hit, but not how I expected. The heat rushed in, and then... I crossed over.
On that day, I learned how wonderful the flavors and character of peppers can be. Since then, I've sought out food experiences with peppers, grown them, and made sauces of them that I've used and given away as gifts. I even have a plant growing on my desk, producing peppers. When it has enough, I make salsa for my coworkers. That plant gets treated with care. If I can't be there to water it, it's taken care of by others.
I created Chilipepper.com for people like me, and for their friends. Stay with us and watch the site grow. If you have suggestions, click the email link below and let me know. I'm always interested.
The chilipepper (also chile or chilli; from Nahuatl chilli via Spanish chile, we prefer chilipepper here,) is the fruit of the plant Capsicum from the nightshade family (Solanaceae).
The chilipeppers and their various cultivars are grown around the world because they are widely used as spices or vegetables in cuisine, and even as medicine.
Cultivated since prehistoric times in Peru and Mexico, it was discovered in the Caribbean by Columbus and named a "pepper" because of its similarity with the Old World peppers of the Piper genus.
Diego Alvarez Chanca, a physician on Columbus' second voyage to the West Indies in 1493, brought the first chilipeppers to Spain, and first wrote about their medicinal effects in 1494.
The most common species of chilipeppers are:
- Capsicum annuum, which includes many common varieties such as bell peppers, paprika, and jalapeños
- Capsicum frutescens, which includes the cayenne and tabasco peppers
- Capsicum chinense, which includes the hottest peppers such as habaneros and Scotch bonnets
- Capsicum pubescens, which includes the South American rocoto peppers
- Capsicum baccatum, which includes the chiltepin
From this source (Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages, AWESOME), we read a good description of the argument over the spelling of the word used to describe our favorite fruit:
"There is considerable zeal in the discussion whether the spice should be called chile, chili or chilli in English. The form chilli is probably closest to the Náhuatl original, and it is the preferred form among historically minded USians and in Australia. The word chili has come to mean almost exclusively the Tex-Mex-food chili con carne in the USA, but is used for the spice in British English. The variant chilly (also the adverb of chill) has become obsolete; it bears connotations to the British Colonial Era and sometimes appears in brand names of products that go back to the first half of the 20th century. Lastly, chile is the name of the spice in contemporary Mexican Spanish, and it is also quite popular in the USA, where it is, however, usually pronounced monosyllabically, as if it were an English word. To make things worse, chiles are often referred to as peppers in English, which is of course a never-ending source of culinarily fatal misunderstandings."
See? Everyone's a winner.