The chilli pepper, the food that bites, came to Europe in the late 15th century. It was cultivated in Central America more than 5000 years ago. Pre-Columbian Americans used the chilli in their food for flavour also for its medicinal properties.; we now know it has a good range of vitamins and is very nutritious (the spelling of chili can be with one or two letter "l"s.)
Chillies vary greatly in hotness, size shape, and can be found in a range of colours from yellow, through orange and red to green. Natural diversification, human intervention and biotechnology have produced dozens of varieties.
Recently the Central American varieties have been joined by new types coming back to the New World and Europe, from Asia, especially from India; including the 'Naga', perhaps the words hottest chillipepper. Despite a flood of new varieties The ever popular Jalapeño, holds its ground especially in a pickled form. When dried it becomes Chilpotle which is pungently aromatic. Like the unsmoked version it is available in a pickled form. Other currently popular versions are the Carribean Scotch Bonnet, Thai Penquin and Tabasco.
They can be eaten fresh, dried or pickled, they are of course easily purchased in the form of a sauce or paste, such as DevilsDynamite. The variety of sauces displayed on the shelves of a delicatessen or even a supermarket is very wide indeed. Many restaurants and hotels now have their very own variety to choose from.
What is the hottest chilli? According to the Guinness Book of Records it is the Bhut Jolokia at over a Million SHUs. These super hot chillies are Naga varieties originating from the North West of India. They seem to be Capsicum Chinense, which is also the species that produced the Habanero. The foothills of the Himalayas also produces a smallish pumpkin shaped, orange variety that is reported to be as hot or hotter than the Nagas. Some of the local peoples refer to it as the Sikkimese Cherry Chilli. A small green chilli from Assam; the Tezpur chilli held the record for a year or two.
Should we spell the word Chile or Chilli or should it have just one 'l' - Chili? It seems to be entirely up to you! Did you notice the different spellings in this article? More interesting links below.