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Hot-tasting pod from the capsicum family.

Chili and cayenne come from the Capsicum frutescens and the Capsicum annuum (Guinea pepper), paprika from the Capsicum tetragonum. The mild green "bell" pepper is the immature Capsicum grossum which, when it"s ripe, is the hot red or yellow pepper.

Capsicums vary in taste somewhat according to where they grow, hence the distinctive flavour of Hungarian paprika, the dried powder derived from the sweet red tetragonum pepper grown in Hungary.

The Chili plant originated in the Americas, but has been adopted with a passion in India and the Far East. There are estimated to be over 60 varieties in Mexico alone, and additional ones in New Mexico and California.

Various types vary enormously in size, flavour and heat - the smaller the hotter is a good rule of thumb, and those with pointed ends are generally hotter than rounded varieties. Their heat actually depends on the quantity of capsaicin they contain, and this varies according to the climate. Hot weather produces hotter peppers.

A "hotness league" was devised by Wilbur Scoville, whereby cool jalapeno chilis rate 3,000, while hot habanero"s are rated at 200,000.

Red chilis, are often used dried; green chilis hardly ever so.

Any hot pepper can be cooled by removing its seeds, stem and veins, and soaking it in water to which salt has been added.

If you burn your mouth, eating rice, sugar or banana is more soothing than drinking water - which only spreads the capsaicin around! See 'Chilis, to handle'; 'Chilis, to keep'; 'Chilis, a few red types'; 'Chilis, a few green types'

If you enjoy cooking take a minute to look at ‘Simon Scrutton French Cookery Classes’ on Google – and learn how to make top class bistro-style dishes. Suitable for beginners upwards. Small classes.

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