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Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Capsicum - 'Capsicum annum' - fam: Solanaceae

The Capsicum is a member of the Nightshade family Solanaceae, and, having originated in the Americas, is now commonly grown throughout the world. The varieties are: C. annuum (incl. bell pepper, paprika, pimento, jalapeño, cascabel), C. frutescens (incl. cayenne, African birdseye), C. chinense (incl. habanero, scotch bonnet, Naga Jolokia), C. pendulum (incl. Piri piri), C. pubescens (incl. rocoto), and C. baccatum (incl. Ají), plus many, many more. 1

The fruit of Capsicum plants have a variety of names, depending on place, and type. The piquant (spicy) varieties are commonly called Chili Peppers, or simply 'Chillies'. The large, mild form is called Red Pepper, Green Pepper, (and others, like Yellow, Purple) or Bell Pepper in North America and United Kingdom, and typically 'capsicum' in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and India. The fruit is called Paprika in some other countries (although Paprika can also refer to the powdered spice made from various capsicum fruit). 2

The fruit of most species of Capsicum contains capsaicin. Capsaicin is a chemical that can produce a strong burning sensation in the mouth (and, if not properly digested, the anus) of the unaccustomed eater. Most mammals find this unpleasant; however, birds are unaffected. The plants developed the secretion of capsaicin to protect the fruit from being eaten by mammals. At the same time, the bright colors attract birds, which will spread the seeds.

The amount of capsaicin in peppers is highly variable and dependent on genetics. This means that almost all types of peppers have varied amounts of heat felt by those consuming them. The only pepper without capsaicin is the Bell Pepper. Chili peppers are of great importance in Native American medicine. Capsaicin is also used in modern Western medicine to stimulate blood circulation or to, ironically, relieve pain. 2

REFERENCES: Wikipedia 1 Wikipedia 2


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