Cayenne pepper is a member of the Capsicum family, as is paprika, and of course, green, red and yellow peppers used in salads and cooking. Cayenne pepper originated in South and Central America and in the West Indies. It was introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus, who was looking for more supplies of black pepper. He was not very discriminating, as he thought cayenne might just be black pepper. It’s made by drying and then grinding the chilli pepper, and is an orange-brown colour.
It was domesticated about 5000 years ago and by the time the Spanish conquistadores arrived in South America, there were dozens of different types of the chilli pepper, which the native Indians had selected and cross bred. It arrived in Asia in the 16th century and was rapidly adopted as a spice and it took to the climate, so it grows well in Asia these days.
It was sometimes referred to as the Guinea pepper and the name cayenne comes from the town in French Guiana on the north eastern coast of South America, where the pepper is cultivated.
Writing his Herball in 1597, John Gerard mentions that the little pepper (also known as the bird pepper or bird chilli) was cultivated in Britain, and he thought it was good as a treatment for skin and throat infections. It has been used in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis and chills. It is a natural stimulant which has no narcotic properties. It has been used in the treatments of tumours, toothache, fever and respiratory ailments in the West.
The Mexican Indians now use it to treat fevers and as an intestinal purifier. They have been eating it for breakfast and as part of their evening meal for more than 2000 years.
Cayenne contains capsaicin which has been extensively studied recently. It has pain-reducing effects, helps prevent ulcers in the digestive system, and is excellent for opening the nasal passages. So if you have a blocked nose, spice up your food with some of this spice. It also contains Vitamin A and beta-carotene, which is a powerful antioxidant, so it can help prevent complications of the cardiac system associated with diabetes, and help prevent cancer of the colon. This cayenne pepper can help boost the immune system, and reduce the risk of stomach ulcers.
It’s very good for your health and adds that je ne sais quoi to your food, so consider investing in some if it’s not already in your food store.
Below is a recipe for chutney using the dried cayenne pepper, which you can buy in Asian shops, or online.
2 cucumbers, with skin, thinly sliced
100 gr shallots,sliced
1 onion, finely sliced
2 tbsps fresh lemon juice
small bunch of chives, finely chopped (optional)
2 or 3 pods of cayenne peppers
2 tbsps Madeira or dry sherry
Mix all the liquids together,as well as the juices from the salted cucumber.
Mash the cayenne pepper pods well in the liquid.
Cover the cucumber, onion slices and the sliced shallots with the liquid and add the chopped chives.
Put in a clean jar with a tight fitting lid and placein the fridge.
Leave for a day or two and eat as an accompaniment to meat or chicken dishes.
This has Taste and is a Treat.