Chile Pepper

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A generic name, also spelled "chili," given to a broad range of over 200 varieties of hot peppers. Chile peppers are grown in different shapes, sizes, and flavors. From round to long and narrow, the pepper can range in size from less than an inch to over 12 inches in length. They can be round and globe-shaped or long and narrow with a pointed end.

The intensity of their flavor ranges from mild to extremely hot. Generally, intensity of the heat in the taste of the pepper decreases as the size of the pepper increases. Thus, the larger peppers are most often mild, while the smaller peppers are spicy and hot. The fiery burning sensation present in some peppers is due to the natural substance called capsaicin that produces the hot taste in the mouth. Capsaicin is present in the inner white ribs (pith) running down the middle and sides of the pepper. Removal of the ribs, as well as the seeds that rub against the ribs and absorb the spicy capsaicin, will reduce the hot intensity of the pepper. Another alternative to counteract the hot taste is to use milk, yogurt, bread, or rice to absorb the intensity of the capsaicin. In dairy products, the substance casein exists which assists to break down the heat effects of capsaicin.

Peppers are available in various colors such as red, green, orange, yellow, white, and black. When selecting peppers, choose any that do not have a wrinkled or dull colored outer flesh. When preparing hot peppers, use caution not to touch the eyes or similar areas that can be painfully affected by the capsaicin that rubs off on hands. To assist in removing capsaicin from hands, use dairy products such as yogurt or ice cream, rubbing the product over the areas affected. Also, another alternative is to use a combination of cooking oil, such as olive oil, and dish detergent to create a wash that will reduce the effects of the capsaicin residue.

Fresh peppers are best stored in a refrigerator while dried peppers are best kept in dry, dark cool storage areas. Some of the most common Chile peppers are: Anaheim, Ancho, Cascabel, Cayenne, Charleston Hot, Cherry Pepper, Chilaca, Chilhuacle, Chipolte, Fresno, Guajillo, Guero, Habanero, Jalapeno, Jamaican hot, Italian Frying, Japanese Sweet, Mulato, Pasilla, Pepperoncini, Pequin, Pimiento, Poblano, Red Pepper, Ristra, Santa Fe Grande, Scotch Bonnet, Serrano, Sweet Peppers, Thai Chile, Togarashi, and Viejo Arruga Dulce. Some of the smallest varieties of peppers are round peppers that are often referred to as "ornamental" or "wild" peppers. There are a variety of colors such as red, green, black, and purple that are readily available and can be used to add color or flavor to various dishes.

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