By William Mills
The chili pepper is the fruit of a plant called Capsicum-although the English use the common name we know; “chilli.” The largest producer of chillies is India today, although they are believed to have been discovered in Central America by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
The chemical ingredients of chillies are used in pepper sprays for law enforcement purposes, and when eaten these bind with pain receptors in the mouth and throat giving that wonderful hot sensation.
A chilli plant is very easily to acquire either being grown from seed or bought from the garden centre. After Christmas is the time to plant their seeds with the fruiting season traditionally lasting from July to October, although these days they are grown all year around.
Check your plant for pests, and quickly spray at the first sign of bug damage. They enjoy outside window sills once the last frosts have gone, however they also need warmth once autumn comes around again, and if properly cared for, should produce chillies for the next four to five years.
A wonderful beef and vegetable casserole can be made by lightly frying a chopped up onion, placing it in a large saucepan with chopped red pepper and mushrooms, then adding a tin of tomatoes. Next gently fry the beef cubes to season them before adding to the saucepan. Chop a few chillies, and after carefully discarding any seeds, stir into the saucepan. Place the lid on and heat until it simmers. After the liquid has reduced add runner beans and broccoli florets. Wait until the vegetables are cooked just to your liking, then serve. It’s yummy.
A word of caution with home grown chillies. It is very difficult initially to gauge how strong they are. If any chillies catch under your fingernails you may inadvertently rub them elsewhere into your skin resulting in a nasty rash. Several people have said that they could taste chilli on their fingers the following morning after eating them. So have a really thorough wash after handling chillies. Experiment carefully because they come in many different strengths ranging from mild to extremely hot!