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Peppers - A Short StudyPeppers
Introduction:

Our pungent peppers of hot sauce, picante and Pico de Gallo are misnamed. 
 Since  it is increasingly popular to do so, we shall also blame Columbus.  The 
 Jewish  gentleman from Genoa sailed to the Orient (so he thought) to find black 
 pepper, other rare spices and fortune.  Instead, he found something far better, 
 Capsicum, but still called it pepper.  Actually, he used the Spanish word for 
 pepper.  The names the aboriginals used for the pungent fruits also live on.  The 
 natives Columbus encountered called it, aji, which is still used in the Caribbean 
 as well as South America.  The Aztec name has given us the word, chile. 

******'Chile de Arbol'******

Taxonomy of Capsicum: 
 
The unique place held by the peppers, Capsicum, in the plant kingdom is as follows:
 Division: Magnoliophyta (Angiosperms)
    Class: Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
       Order: Solanales
          Family: Solanaceae
             Genus: Capsicum L.
                Domesticated species include: C. annuum, C. baccatum, C. chinense & C. pubescens

While there are four species in general cultivation, the most common one in gardens or grocery stores in 
the U.S. is C. annuum, with three recognized varieties.  Its name notwithstanding, C. annuum is actually a 
perennial, not an annual.  Its perennial nature is best appreciated in the frost-free regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America, or in a greenhouse. 
 

Botanical Varieties of Capsicum annuum L.
Variety
Synonym
Common Name
Capsicum annuum L. var. annuum Capsicum baccatum auct. non L.
Capsicum frutescens sensu Standl., non L. 
Bell Pepper, Cayenne, Chile Pepper, Hot Pepper, Jalapeño
Capsicum annuum L. var. frutescens (L.) Kuntze Capsicum frutescens L.  Tabasco, Tabasco Pepper
Capsicum annuum L. var. glabriusculum (Dunal) Heiser & Pickersgill Capsicum annuum var. aviculare (Dierbach) D'Arcy & Eshbaugh
Capsicum annuum var. minus (Fingerhuth) Shinners 
Bird Pepper, Chile Piquin, Chiltecpin, Chiltepin, Piquin, Tepin

In addition, many more species of Capsicum have been identified, all native to the New World:

Species of Capsicum
Currently Accepted Species
Distribution
annuum L.
Colombia to S United States
baccatum L.
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Peru
buforum Hunziker
Brazil
campylopodium Sendt.
S Brazil
cardenasii Heiser & Smith
Bolivia
chacoense Hunziker
Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay
chinense Jacq.
Caribbean, Central & South America
coccineum (Rusby) Hunziker
Bolivia, Peru
cornutum (Hiern) Hunziker
South Brazil
dimorphum (Miers) O. K.
Colombia
dusenii Bitter
SE Brazil
eximium Hunziker
Argentina, Bolivia
glapagoensis Hunziker
Ecuador
geminifolium (Dammer) Hunziker
Colombia, Ecuador
hookerianum (Miers) O. K.
Ecuador
lanceolatum (Greenm.) Morton & Standley
Mexico, Guatemala, 
leptopodum (Dunal) O. K.
Brazil
minutiflorum (Rusby) Hunziker
Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay
mirabile Mart ex. Sendt
S Brazil
parvifolium Sendt.
Colombia, NE Brazil, Venezuela
praetermissum Heiser & Smith
S Brazil
pubescens Ruiz & Pavon
Central & South America
scolnikianum Hunziker
Peru
schottianum Sendt.
(includesC. flexuosum Sendt.)
Argentina, S Brazil, SE Paraguay
tomentosum Eshbaugh & Smith 
(C. eximium var. tomentosum
Eshbaugh & Smith)
Argentina, Bolivia
tovarii Eshbaugh, Smith & Nickrent
Peru
villosum Sendt.
S Brazil
Invalid Capsicum Species:
 
C. anomalum, C. breviflorum & C. ciliatum
This table is based on the works of Heiser, 
Hunziker, Eshbaugh, Pickersgill & others.

Ethnobotany of Capsicum

One aspect of ethnobotany is an examination of the names given to plants and how pre-industrial cultures have classified the flora of their surroundings.  Nahuatl is one of the best known pre-Columbian languages of the New World.  It was and still is spoken by peoples in central Mexico, by the Aztecs and those they conquered.  This is a glossary of Nahuatl terms associated with Capsicum and its edible fruits.  Many of  these words are still used in Mexico:

Chilaquiles - a dish made from torn pieces of tortillas, chiles, epazote, etc. - from chilli (chile) and quilitl (greens, herbs)

Chilate - a drink made from chiles, with cacao and ground, toasted corn - from chilli (chile) and atl (water)

Chilchote - a green-fruited Capsicum - from chilchotl (green chile)

Chilcostle - a yellow-fruited Capsicum - from chilli (chile) and cóztic (yellow)

Chile - the edible fruit of Capsicum - from chilli (chile), itself possibly derived from chíltic (red)

Chilhuaque - dried chile - from chilli (chile) and huaqui (dried)

Chilmole - a thin chile "soup" in which meats and/or beans are cooked - from chilli (chile) and molli (chile sauce)

Chilocle - a drink made with pulque, chile and other ingredients - from chilli (chile) and octli (wine)

Chipotle - variant of chilpotle

Chilpoctle - variant of chilpotle

Chilpotle - a pepper dried and cured by exposure to smoke - from chilli (chile) and poctli (smoke)

Chiltecpin -  the name of Capsicum annuum L. var. glabriusculum, a shrubby plant with small fruits, also known as:  Bird Pepper, Chile Piquin, Chiltepin, Piquin, Tepin - from chilli (chile) and tecpin (flea)

Chiltepin - see chiltecpin

Chiltipin - variant of chiltecpin - from chilli (chile) and tipitzin (small)

Chilzolote - a dried or old chile - from chilli (chile) and zoloa (to make old)

Chincuayo - a wild Capsicum with violet petals - from tzintli (tail), cuáhuitl (tree) and yo (possessive ending)

Cócoc - spicy, that which burns the mouth

Guacamole - a mixture of avocado and chiles - from ahuácatl (avocado) and molli (mole or chile sauce)

Pétztic - brilliant, fulgent, polished

Tonalchile - a green-fruited Capsicum - from tonalli (heat from the sun) and chilli (chile) 

Tornachile - see tonalchile

**********
Another aspect of ethnobotany  is an examination of the uses of a plant by a culture.  Aside from being edible and nutritious, the fruits of Capsicum are reputed to have numerous medicinal uses.  For example, the following applications have been recorded for Cayenne Pepper:
"1.  The ability to prevent or even stop a heart attack by increasing heart action without raising blood pressure 
2. Thins blood, reducing the risk of stroke.
3. Acts as an internal disinfectant it can detoxify the colon and help with eliminative functions 
4. Topical pain reliever.
5. If you have a cut it can stop the bleeding.
6. Relieves pain from stomach ulcers by creating more mucous and coating the wall of the stomach. 
7. Can knock out cold and flu miseries.
8. Used as a gargle, it can relieve sore throat pain. 
9. Diabetes may take it to lower their blood sugar levels.
10. Cayenne is also very high in vitamin C so it acts as a preventative against respiratory infections and can help strengthen the immune system.
11. It has also been proposed that the capsaicinoids might be useful in fighting cancer."
This page is designed for informational or educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food 
and Drug Administration.  It is not intended to promote any specific products, or to be a substitute for professional 
medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Always seek the advice of a qualified health-care professional with any 
questions you may have regarding a medical condition or symptom.

Heat Scales:

The pungency of a particular fruit depends not only on its genetic makeup, but also on many physical and cultural factors.  Capsaicin content varies depending on where on the plant the fruit is located; when in the growing season it matures; soil type; nutrients available at the root zone; quality, quantity and frequency of irrigation or rainfall; and amount of sunlight received by the plant. 

Quantifying the relative heat content of peppers was a part of the vocabulary of the Aztecs.  Their Nahuatl language contains the following colorful expressions of taste bud pain:

Nahuatl - Pepper Heat Scale
cócoc
hot
cócpatic
very hot
cócopetz-patic
very, very hot
cócopétztic
brilliant hot
cócpetzquauitl
extremely hot
cócpaalatic
runaway hot
Adapted from: http://www.bronxmall.com/norwoodnews/past/061500/features/page3.html
 
A more modern method of determining the heat content of the fruits was developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912.  In the chart below, a range of values is given when several testings of a cultivar have yielded varying heat content.  Where only one value is given, it indicates the result of a single test.
 
Scoville Heat Unit Scale
Pepper Variety
Scoville Heat Units
100% Capsaicin
16,000,000
Dorset Naga (C. chinense
900,000 ~ 923,000
Naga Jolokia (C. chinense
855,000
Red Savina Habanero (C. chinense
350,000 ~ 577,000
Habanero, Scotch Bonnet (all C. chinense
150,000 ~ 325,000
Bird's Eye (C. annuum)
100,000 ~ 225,000
Jamaican Hot (C. annuum)
100,000 ~ 200,000
Carolina Cayenne (C. annuum)
100,000 ~ 125,000
Tabiche
85,000 ~ 115,000
Thai (C. annuum)
50,000 ~ 100,000
Yatsafusa
50,000 ~ 75,000
Chile Piquin, Chiltecpin, Chiltepin, 
Piquin, Tepin (all C. annuum)
40,000 ~ 75,000
Santaka, Super Chile
40,000 ~ 50,000
Aji (C. baccatum), Jaloro, 
Tabasco (C. annuum v. frutescens)
30,000 ~ 50,000
Mitla (C. annuum)
22,000
Aji Escabeche (C. baccatum)
17,000
Chile de Arbol (C. annuum)
15,000 ~ 30,000
Manzano (C. annuum)
12,000 ~ 30,000
Long Thick Cayenne (C. annuum)
8,500
Cayenne (C. annuum)
8,000 ~ 50,000
Hidalgo Serrano (C. annuum)
6,000 ~ 17,000
Hot Wax, Puya, Wax (C. annuum)
5,000 ~ 10,000
Primavera Jalapeño (C. annuum)
5,000
NuMex Joe E. Parker (C. annuum)
4,500
Serrano (C. annuum)
4,000 ~ 23,000
Chipolte, Jalapeño (C. annuum)
2,500 ~ 8,000
Guajillo, Mirasol, Sandia (all C. annuum)
2,500 ~ 5,000
Pasilla (C. annuum)
2,000 ~ 5,500
Rocotillo 
1,500 ~ 2,500
Ancho, Española, Mulato, 
Poblano (all C. annuum)
1,000 ~ 2,000
Pulla (C. annuum)
700 ~ 3,000
Coronado (C. annuum)
700 ~ 1,000
Anaheim, NuMex Big Jim (all C. annuum)
500 ~ 2,500
New Mexico (C. annuum)
500 ~ 1,000
El Paso, Santa Fe Grande (all C. annuum)
500 ~ 700
1 PPM (part per milllion) Capsaicin
16.0
Pepperoncini (C. annuum)
0 ~ 500
Cherry, Pimento, Sweet Bell Pepper, 
Sweet Italian (all C. annuum)
0
Copyright at Common Law by Manuel Flores