Although most chili peppers are indigenous to South America, they are used and grown around the world. Hot peppers are used in abundance in Mexican, South American, Indonesian, African and Oriental cooking, while the milder peppers are common in European and North American recipes. And, peppers have been cultivated for thousands of years for their medicinal properties, known for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, in addition to their culinary purposes.
The word “peppers” can bring to mind several images. On one end of the spectrum is the sweet bell pepper. On the other is the hottest of the hot peppers, the habanero chili pepper. One has virtually no heat while the other will melt the taste buds off your tongue. The one thing that all chili peppers share is the common name “capsicum” (pronounced KAP-sih-kuhm). Capsicum, from the Greek kapto meaning “to bite,” is the pepper genus.
Hot peppers have many uses in the kitchen! Fire the grill and chop the chiles for the hottest cuisine today. Nothing adds more to a marinated flank steak than 1 (or maybe 2!) hot chile chopped and added to the marinade. Chop a chile in a bowl of chopped tomato, cilantro, onion, salt, and lemon juice for a delicious salsa but be sure to check the heat with a crisp tortilla chip. Lemon juice helps put out the fire if you have added too much. Saute a SMALL amount of a chile, with onion, green pepper, chopped tomato, fresh chives until tender then add eggs and grated cheese for delicious scrambled eggs. Spoon into a warm flour tortilla for a special breakfast. Peppers can be dried and the powder used to spice stews and soups.
The chili peppers we grow are very hot! Use them sparingly, taking care to wash hands well after chopping.