Hot Chillies – Pocket Rockets of Goodness
Hello Herb Lovers,
My black chilli bush is bursting with fruit so I thought I would put my mind as to what to do with it all. It’s only a little bush but it more than covers our use of chilli. This particular bush is a “Black Pearl”, but I have also seen it called “Purple Delight”. The chillies are not as long and slim as Serano but short and fat. This is a very pretty short bush – all black with black/green leaves & purple flowers.
Fruit starts out black, never green…..when ripe turns a fiery red. Seriously hot when red. I like them black as they are still hot but have a fruitier taste. This is the reason I picked both red and black and am now going to turn my hand at braiding them. I found this site on the net which gives instructions – of course I opted for the easy version since my chillies are only little. It wont be a very impressive braid but I will be proud nonetheless (uhm, if it works).
Yay, it worked Little Trouble (aged3) helped with the threading. I put my lovely braid on some basil for effect as it really looked a bit sad on its own on the table top. It’s only little but it looks rather fetching, dont you think?
So now some information about chilli also called chili, chile and hot peppers. The plants are from the genus Capsicum, members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. Of course Capsicum covers a whole range of fruit from the fiercest little firebombs to the very mild bell pepper. But I am just concentrating on the hotter varieties in this post.
Where chillies originated seems to a bit vague, but it is most widely accepted that Columbus found them on his journey through the Americas and named them peppers due to the similar taste of what we know as black pepper. He then spread them across Spain and Portugal from where the Portuguese introduced them to India and the Phillipines. This all took place during the 1500’s but some point out that chillies were in use in the Americas for thousands of years BC. I guess it all depends on where you start counting. I usually go from the European perspective as my point of reference since I rely on a lot of old European texts for my information.
Medicinally, the bitter alkaloid capsaicin is responsible for the hot taste and modern science found this to be a great painkiller. Everyone who has ever eaten hot chillies will be able to attest to the sweat inducing properties which combined with the antibacterial properties of chillies makes it ideal for colds and chills. Other benefits include increased blood flow, increased appetite, relieves indigestion and aids in the treatment of sore throats and laryngitis. Topically it can be added to massage oil to improve circulation and help with rheumatism, arthritis, aching joints and muscles.
In the kitchen there are so many uses for this fiery ingredient. A little goes a long way and rarely does a recipe call for quantities that blow off the roof of your mouth. There are so many recipes for chillies I am not going to go into detail.
But here are some other ideas for your next chilli crop.
Apart from drying your chillies, the next best way to preserve your hard earned harvest is to make a Sambal. I use the term a bit loosely and it may not strictly be the Indonesian or Malay version of the same name. Traditionally you would blend up your chillies with some garlic, sugar, salt, rice wine vinegar and oil. But I just blend the chillies with the oil and that way I am not guided by the Asian combination of hot, sweet, salty and sour. It lasts forever and makes pretty gifts for your cook friends.
Then you could make chilli pastes – spice pastes to match your favourite cuisines. You can flavour oils, make dressings which look great when you can see the chilli in the bottle. Or if you have way too much you can just hang braids of dried fruit up in the kitchen for a rustic look.
Even if you dont grow your own chillies, quite often you will find a glut of them at the markets so you can buy up big for little money.