Capsicum plants grow around the world in many climates on many continents. But there are some basic ground rules:
1) the hotter the climate, the hotter the chili
2) the smaller the chili, the hotter the taste.
People often ask, “Where does Cayenne Pepper come from?” Cayenne Pepper comes from New Mexico along with parts of Louisiana are the epicenters of chili farming in the United States. Most chilis require an optimal growing temperature of 24 degrees C. (93 F.) with a tolerable temperature range of 32 C. (103 F.) and 15 C. (59 F.). Humidity is a must. Three to five months is the average growing time for most chilis before harvest. There are over 1,700 different varieties of both wild and cultivated peppers known.
Hungary uses twice as much acreage to grow paprika chilis as tomato plants, producing over 62,000 tons per year. India produces over 800,000 tons of chilis annually and consumes 95% of it right there at home. The chili growing nations of India, Hungary, China, Pakistan, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Thailand, and Japan produce over 4 million tons per year. Mexico cultivates the widest assortment of chilis in its 53,000 tons per year, with only a small percentage being the bland bell pepper and nearly all of that going to the United States.
The hottest pepper commonly found in American markets is the Jalapeno, grown in Jalapa, Veracruz in Mexico. New Mexico grows around 47,000 tons of chilis annually, leading all American states. American farmers wishing to diversify their crops may consider the humble chili as a “cash crop”, which nets a profit of $1600 per acre, compared to $300 per acre for hay. Meanwhile, the infamous black pepper that Columbus sought, amounts to only 200,000 tons of production per year around the world.
Helped Win a Nobel Prize
Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi was a Hungarian scientist doing research in the United States during the 1930s. He was trying to isolate hexuronic acid from the adrenals of cattle. After laboring for years and tediously extracting hexuronic acid from vast quantities of cow adrenal glands, he managed to gather a mere 20 grams (less than an ounce) of pure hexuronic acid from the hundreds of kilograms of adrenals that he had processed.
Then, once back home in Hungary, his wife fed him a paprika chili pepper for dinner. Lacking an appetite, he decided to take the paprika down to his laboratory and see if it had any hexuronic acid. As we now know, chili peppers have more hexuronic acid, or vitamin C, than almost any other food on earth, as much as 500% more vitamin C per gram than an orange. Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi was elated, able to extract enough vitamin C to identify the chemical structure and was awarded the Nobel prize in 1937 for what Time Magazine then called “the Paprika Prize”. Vitamin C has since become one of the more valuable nutrients in human nutrition, since it bolsters the immune system and slows down the aging process.
Cayenne Pepper as a Weapon?
When the Spanish Conquistadors were attacking the Mayan and Incan people in Central and South America during the 16th century, one of the few weapons those people had was to burn large mounds of dried chili peppers in the path of the oncoming invaders, which temporarily blinded the advancing soldiers. More recently, 13 shoppers at a mall in San Fernando, California were hospitalized when a fire broke out in a restaurant and then began burning hot chilis. The fumes from these burning chilis acted like spray Mace on the eyes and lungs of the shoppers.
The bite of chili peppers has been used for brutal purposes. The British rubbed hot Bahamian peppers in the eyes of mutinous slaves in the Caribbean region. In 1640, Sir John Parkinson wrote that dogs detested hot peppers, which eventually produced the aerosol pepper sprays carried by postmen and many women today. It is still custom in some regions of Africa to spray water containing hot pepper juice in the eyes of misbehaving children. The U.S. Army considered using chili powder as a non-lethal form of tear gas. The Grebo tribe in Liberia still conduct a sadistic ritual of smearing mashed hot peppers in every orifice of an infant’s body as a means of “initiating” the child. Read more about the history of Cayenne Pepper here.
What are the Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper?
You are going to be amazed at the healing properties of cayenne. Therefore, we need to peer inside of this humble little fruit in order to better understand how it may help an alphabet soup of health problems. Bear with me for a minute.
The “bite” in cayenne is from a compound called “capsaicin”, with the family of related compounds called “capsaicinoids” found in hot peppers throughout the world. Chemists call capsaicin “8 methyl N vanillyl 6 nonenamide”. Capsaicin has a chemical structure very similar to the active ingredient in ginger, both of which have a pungent “bite” and many therapeutic values.
In addition to capsaicin, which you can read more about here, a fresh cayenne chili pepper contains :
Ash (minerals): 6%
Fat soluble “others”: 22%
Vitamin C: 29 mg per 100 grams
Capsaicinoids: 177 micrograms per gram
Beta carotene: 1733 micrograms per gram
Iron: 10 mg per 100 grams
Phosphorus: 356 mg per 100 grams
Calcium: 210 mg per 100 grams
The health of Americans is suffering from too much fat and the wrong kind of fat. Chili peppers are both low in fat and contain the right kind of fat: 66% of the fat as linoleic and 5% as linolenic acid, the two essential fats in the diet of humans.