July 21, 2009

Eat Chillies If You Feel Under The Weather

Source of Article: The truth about chilli

Curious about chilli? Here are four things you might not know about this native South American fruit:

1. Chilli sits alongside capsicum, potato, eggplant, tomato and tobacco in the solanaceae or “nightshade” family.
2. One gene differentiates the sweet capsicum from chilli. It is a chemical called capsaicin which is responsible for the sensation of heat.
3. Christopher Columbus introduced chilli to Europe in the 15th century. His physician wrote of chillis’ medicinal effects in 1494.
4. Chilli is eaten daily by one third of the world’s population.

Chilli – A ‘Miracle’ Spice
Although chilli is packed with vitamin C, fibre, potassium and some B group vitamins it is eaten in such small quantities that its overall nutritional contribution is usually minor.

But researchers believe the capsaicin in chillis could be of enormous medicinal benefit.

Capsaicin is thought to:
1. Stave off colds. The capsaicin opens the nasal passages, easing congestion.
2. Increase the metabolic rate, helping burn calories.
3. Reduce cholesterol and fight high blood pressure.
4. Assist sound sleep. Capsaicin is thought to influence brain receptors which control sleep cycles.
5. Relieve arthritis pain when applied via topical cream.
6. Possibly kill cancer cells. Scientists are currently investigating.

Capsaicin is responsible for stimulating the sensors on the tongue which detect heat and pain, tricking the brain into thinking the tongue is on fire!

How Hot?
The hottest part of a chilli is the flesh around the seeds as well as the seeds themselves. The flesh has the greatest concentration of the chemical capsaicin.

There are hundreds of different types of chillis – with varying colours, shapes, sizes, flavours and heat intensities.

The American chemist Wilbur Scoville devised a test for rating the hotness of chillis in 1912. His test – now referred to as the Scoville scale – measures the capsaicin content in different chilli varieties. See the
Scoville scale on Wikipedia.

Some of the chillis grown in Australia include bells, birdseye, cayenne, habanero, horn and jalapeno.

What to do when chilli is too hot!
Drink milk, not water. Water will rinse the chilli itself away but will leave capsaicin hooked on nerve endings. However the casein in milk (and other dairy products) will strip the capsaicin from the tongue. That is why hot spicy dishes are often served with yoghurt or sour cream.

How to store chilli at home
Chillis placed in an airtight container should last a few weeks in the fridge or several months in the freezer. Alternatively chilli can be preserved in vinegar and stored in the pantry (away from sunlight) for a couple of years.

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