This year The International Herb Society, has chosen capsicum to be the “The Herb of the Year.” Every year the organization evaluates possible choices based on their being outstanding in at least two of the three major categories: medicinal, culinary, or decorative. The society has determined that peppers are outstanding in all three categories.
Capsicum is a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family, Solanaceae, along with tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and tomatillos. Its species are native to the Americas, where they have been cultivated for thousands of years. Historically, chili peppers have been used as money, tribute, spice, ornament, vegetable, medicine, as pest control and in spiritual ceremonies.
HOW CAPSICUM BECAME TO BE KNOWN AS PEPPERS
It is thought that Spanish explores while looking for black pepper (Piper nigrum) misnamed chilis they found in the New World “pepper.” Eager to prove that they had indeed opened a new direct sea rout to Asia, they brought back samples of the various species they found in the New World, Including “pepper.”
WHAT MAKES PEPPERS HOT?
The answer is capaicin, an oil-like compound. Pepper hotness is measured by the Scoville Heat Unit System, invented by Wilbur L. Scoville in 1912. It rates how much capsaicin or heat is present in a pepper. Just one drop of pure capsaicin, registering over 15 million Scoville units, diluted in 100,000 drops of water would be enough to blister your skin. Milk offers relief from the heat since it contains a fat-dissolving substance that neutralizes capsaicin. The sweet pepper is not naturally occurring, but rather bred to be absent of heat.
CAPSICUM AND HEALTH
- As little as 1 tablespoon of red or green chili pepper can boost an individual’s metabolic rate.
- Capsaicin is used in topical pain relievers.
- Research is currently being conducted to study the impact of capsaicin on cancer cells.
- According to the Chile Pepper Institute one fresh medium sized green chili pod has as much Vitamin C as six oranges .
CAPSICUM RECIPE: BELL PEPPER & GOAT CHEESE SPREAD*
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander
- 1 portion goat cheese log (chèvre), softened
- 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
In a medium skillet, sauté bell peppers in olive oil until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, rosemary, coriander, fennel, black pepper, thyme, and bay leaf; simmer 5 minutes, Cool to room temperature; season with salt. Remove bay leaf and transfer to food processor along with goat cheese; process until smooth.
Use the weight of the bell pepper as part of your vegetable portion. Use lettuce leaves, celery, tomato, and/or avocado to round out your meal vegetable portion. Use the spread on the other vegetables as well as spreading it on rye bread or cracker.
If olive oil is not on your plan, substitute with another oil suitable for cooking. Omit oil for Strict Phase 2; substitute water with a splash of apple cider vinegar.
Herb Society of America
International Herb Society
*Beyond Salt and Pepper, 40 Fabulous Flavor Enhancers by C.L. Haney & Bonnie Keast 2012
Pair peppers with beans (The UN’s choice for 2106) and you have the start of a year of good eating…
Photo Credit: Wiki-Commons, capsicum annuum