Welcome to my 'hot' website!
...Being a Chile-Head
...means that I have a deep and profound love for all things 'chile pepper-ish'. This includes hot 'Chili con Carne', hot sauces, hot snacks and chile peppers in general. Chile peppers increase the bodies endorphin production and endorphins are natural opiates. These are the mood-elevating substances which are also released when performing physical aerobic exercises. But how?
An alkaloid substance called Capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) that causes the heat of chiles and peppers is a flavourless, odourless chemical concentrated in the veins of chile peppers. When eaten, capsaicin stimulates the brain to release a neurotransmitter called substance P, which lets the brain know something painful is going on. The brain, 'thinking' that the body is in big trouble, mistakenly responds by turning on the waterworks to douse the flames. The mouth starts to salivate, the nose starts to run, the eyes might start to water and the face breaks into a sweat. The heart beats faster and the natural painkiller endorphin is secreted. In other words, Chile-Heads get a buzz!
Scoville Heat Units
The heat of chile peppers is measured in Scoville Heat Units. Bell peppers rank at zero SHU's, Jalapeños at 3,000–6,000 SHU's and Habaneros at 300,000 SHU's. The record for the highest number of SHU's in a pepper is assigned by the Guinness Book of Records, to the Red Savina Habanero, with 577,000 SHU's.
Pure capsaicin rates at 16,000,000 SHU's.
A US manufacturer of hot sauces has made what he claims is the most pungent chilli powder it is possible to make. The powder is so hot that Blair Lazar's customers have to sign a legal waiver before tasting it. The pure Capsaicin, 30 times hotter than the hottest pepper and 8,000 times hotter than Tabasco sauce, is distilled from several tons of fresh peppers. Capsaicin does not actually burn, instead it stimulates nerve endings in your mouth, giving the sensation of burning. Over the past decade or so, manufacturers have taken the humble chilli pepper and distilled it into ever more fiery sauces. The names of the concoctions, After Death Sauce and Insanity Sauce are just two, give some idea of the pain that is involved during and after consuming them.
Chile peppers are the fruit of the plant Capsicum that forms part of the nightshade family (Solanaceae).
As early as 7000 BC native Indians in the New World were eating the wild "chiltecpin" (piquín) pepper. This is a small and very pungent chile eaten like peanuts today only by the brave. It is believed that chile peppers were domesticated between 5200 and 3400 B.C. by nomadic Indians dependent on the harvesting of wild plants for more than half of their food. Chile peppers were first cultivated in South America around 2300 BC by the Incas who called them "Uchu" in the Quechua language and "Huayca" in the Aymara language. The Incas worshipped the chile pepper as one of the holy plants and used it to represent the teachings of the early kings.
Before 1500 B.C. chiles travelled north into Mexico and gained the reputation as a spicy condiment, becoming an important part of the native diet. Around this time the Olmecs, one of the first agricultural tribes, settled in what is now Veracruz in Mexico.
At about 500 B.C. the Monte Alban culture of the Zapotec Indians from the valley of Oaxaca, Mexico, began exporting to neighbouring tribes the "Suchilquitongo" bowls that resemble the handheld mortars or molcajetes. These bowls are believed to be the first evidence that people crushed chiles for chile powder. When the Mayas reached the peak of their civilization about 500 A.D. in southern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula. They were growing many different varieties of chiles, an important ingredient in the Mayan diet. They used chiles in almost every meal, from breakfast, which was a hot cereal of ground maize spiced with chile peppers called atole or pozol, to the evening meal of various stews spiced with chiles.
The Aztec were the last agricultural tribe to arrive in the area of Mexico City around 1200 A.D. The marketplaces of the Aztec overflowed with chiles of all shapes and sizes and many colours. They called this pungent fruit "chillis" in the Nahuatl language, which referred to both the red and green chile peppers.
Diego Alvarez Chanca, a physician on Columbus' second voyage to the West Indies in 1493, brought the first chile peppers back to Spain, and was the first to write about their medicinal effects in 1494.