About Cayenne Pepper
Description of Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper is perhaps the world's favorite pepper for spicy dishes. Cayenne is a member of the Capsicum family. Cayenne pepper grows on plants with tree-like structure, although they are technically considered shrubs. The cayenne plant is not very big, growing up to about 3 feet tall and 2 feet at its widest point.
The cayenne plant produces fruits. These fruits then grow into pods which are quite long. Pods can measure up to 10 inches. Pods are usually a bright red but can also be yellow or orange when ripe. These pods are actually what we commonly know as cayenne pepper.
It is common knowledge that cayenne pepper is very hot but did you know that cayenne pepper is one of the hottest chili peppers? The hotness of chili peppers is measured using the Scoville Scale. This scale was devised by Wilbur Scoville in 1912. Though prone to human subjectivity, the Scoville Scale is still widely used to determine and advertise the hotness of chili peppers. Cayenne pepper can measure in at anywhere from 40, 000 to 90, 000 Scoville Units. Not the hottest but definitely hot!
History of Cayenne Pepper
Much like many other spices we use today, cayenne pepper has been around for quite some time. There are two streams of theories as to how it got the name cayenne. Some say that cayenne comes from the Tupi language – an Indian tribe in South America; that the name cayenne is derived from the word kian. However, there are those who say that the term cayenne comes from the French Guiana which capital is called Cayenne. There is also a river named Cayenne in this territory.
No matter the derivation of the name, cayenne pepper’s popularity hasn’t waned one bit. In fact, by the 1500s, cayenne pepper was one of the most priced spices around the world. This can be attributed to the Portuguese monopoly of the spice trade.
Cultivation and Varieties
Cayenne pepper is grown all over the world. Seeds are usually used in planting and then are transplanted later on. It is best to start planting cayenne seeds in early spring. Make sure to provide hot and moist conditions in order for the plants to flourish. Once ripe, the fruits can be harvested.
There are a lot of different varieties of cayenne pepper. Some of the most recommended ones are: Charleston Hot, Hot Portugal, Large Red Thick, Long Red Slim, Ring of Fire, and Super Cayenne. The last variety is a hybrid and has quite small pods.
Uses for Cayennne Pepper
The use of cayenne pepper can be traced back to about 7,000 years ago. It has been traditionally used in many countries as an addition to food as well as for medicinal purposes. As a spice, cayenne pepper packs a lot of punch even if it has very little aroma.
The common form of cayenne pepper today is the dried and powdered form. It is commercially available at any grocery store. It can be mixed with almost any kind of dish. Vegetable sautés, stir fry dishes, and canned beans all benefit from a dash of cayenne pepper. Mixed with lemon juice, cayenne pepper is great with bitter greens such as collards and mustard greens. Creole and Cajun food is not complete without cayenne pepper. It is a staple of sauces and gumbos. Mexican food and hot sauces also make use of cayenne pepper a lot.
Though what we normally use today is the powdered form, some dishes also make use of fresh cayenne pepper. This is normally observed in Chinese food, such as Szechuan dishes. Of course, Mexican food also incorporates fresh cayenne pepper. For chocolate lovers, add a new twist to your hot cocoa by adding a sprinkle of cayenne pepper just before you drink your cup. You’d be surprised at the flavor!
Medicinally, cayenne pepper is considered to be the miracle herb. Even way before the Middle Ages, history annals tells of various uses of cayenne pepper. In modern times, the health benefits of cayenne pepper are still recognized. Cayenne pepper is very rich in Vitamin A and C. It also contains B vitamins, organic calcium, and potassium.
Cayenne pepper is supposed to be very good for digestion related problems. It helps in rebuilding the lining of the stomach as well as aid the digestion process. As such, cayenne pepper actually helps reduce the risk of stomach ulcers. In addition to helping renew the stomach lining, it also kills bad bacteria in the digestive tract.
The heart also benefits from cayenne pepper. It is said that cayenne pepper can stop a heart attack in progress. Though not scientifically proven, cayenne pepper does help the cardiovascular system. It helps lower bad cholesterol, which may contribute to heart attacks. More so, it also helps hinder the formation of blood clots.
Another very common medicinal use of cayenne pepper is to fight inflammation and pain. Capsaicin, a substance found in all chili peppers, is responsible for inhibiting substances in the human body which promote inflammation. The more capsaicin a type of chili pepper contains, the more effective it will be in fighting inflammation. Capsaicin has also been shown effective against pain when applied topically. Arthritis, psoriasis, and cluster headaches are some conditions which may benefit from this. A note of caution is required though. The application of any chili pepper should be done with great care. If the chili pepper gets into the eyes or other sensitive areas, the pain would be almost unbearable. Thus, after handling chili pepper with your bare hands, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly.
Cayenne pepper tincture, mixed with warm water, can be a good treatment for sore throat and laryngitis. Used as a gargle, this mixture will help ease the pain in the throat. Cayenne pepper is also purported to boost our immune system as well as help people lose weight. For a stuffy nose, cayenne pepper will do the trick by stimulating mucus secretion.
Indeed, cayenne pepper is one of the most versatile spices in existence today.