SOME LIKE IT HOT

By November 3, 2011Fruit, Produce, Summer, Vegetable

Q: Explosive chillies?? How hot are we talking?  

South American food has seen a major revival in Sydney over the last few years. The strong South American contingent at this year’s Crave’s World Chef Showcase was a clear indication of the interest in South American flavours among foodies, while a Masterchef appearance by the 2 hatted Porteno team has seen Aussie barbies flaring to life.

The pepper (capsicum) is one of the most important seasoning ingredients in South American food, both the sweet and hot varieties are treasured and used widely. Unfortunately, the meaning of pepper tends to get lost in translation. Many varieties look very similar, and depending on where you are and who you talk to, peppers can be chillies, chillies can be capsicums and capsicums can be sweet peppers?! Clear as mud!

While Australians refer to Bell Pepper/Sweet Pepper as a capsicum, ‘capsicum’ is actually the genus name for the flowering plants that produce sweet peppers and their fiery cousins, chillies. Capsicums fall under the umbrella of the Nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, eggplants and the pepino. As we are now coming into peak season for Capsicums in Australia, below is a list of the main varieties you’ll see cropping up at the markets.

OH SO SWEET: These capsicums have a zero to low Scoville rating. A recessive gene in bell peppers actually eliminates capsaicin

CAPSICUM

Alias: Bell Pepper, Sweet Pepper

Image: Simon George & Sons

  • COLOURS: Green, Red, Orange, Yellow, Red.
  • APPEARANCE: Large, block shaped fruit with 4-6 lobes and seeds on the inside
  • AVAILABILITY: All year, best between November – June
  • FLAVOUR: Sweet
    • Green is less sweet and slightly more bitter
    • Red fruit can contain up to 2 tablespoons of natural sugar
  • BEST FOR: Everything, as long as you aren’t looking for heat
  • TASTY FACT: Red capsicums are the most nutritious, having more carotene, lycopene, and vitamins than their younger green siblings.

GOURMET ORANGE/YELLOW:

Alias: Paprika

Image: Simon George & Sons

  • COLOURS: Orange and Yellow
  • APPEARANCE: Similar to regular bell peppers, however ½ to 2/3rd the size
  • AVAILABILITY: All Year, best between October and April
  • FLAVOUR: Sweet
  • BEST FOR: A sweet, colourful addition to salads, also good for stuffing or roasting

 

HUNGARIAN CAPSICUM:

Image: www.marketfresh.com.au

  • COLOUR: White to cream
  • APPEARANCE: Similar in size and shape to Gourmet Capsicum range
  • AVAILABILITY: All Year, best between November to March
  • BEST FOR: Goulash! Salads, stuffing or roasting

 

BULLHORN:

Image: Simon George & Sons

  • COLOUR: Red, Green, Yellow
  • APPEARANCE: Long, curved and tapered to a point
  • AVAILABILITY: October to March
  • FLAVOUR: Sweet, fruity
  • BEST FOR: Stuffing or as a substitute for bell peppers

BABY CAPSICUM- VINE SWEET:

Image: Simon George & Sons

  • COLOUR: Yellow to Red
  • APPEARANCE: Mini capsicums between 5-7cms
  • AVAILABILITY: All Year
  • FLAVOUR: Sweet and crunchy
  • BEST FOR: Salads, Stir fries, gourmet presentation

 

IL BELLO ROSSO (BABY RED CAPSICUMS):

Image: Simon George & Sons

  • COLOUR: Red
  • APPEARANCE: Mini capsicums between 5-7cms
  • AVAILABILITY: All Year
  • FLAVOUR: Sweet and mild
  • BEST FOR: Salads, Stir fries, gourmet presentation

BRING ON THE HEAT: These chillies have capsaicin present in the white pith around the seeds and the seeds themselves, the capsaicin is what brings on the burn.  

LONG CHILLIES:

Alias: Cayenne Pepper

Image: Simon George & Sons

  • COLOUR: Green to Red, depending on stage of maturity. Green is immature, red is ripe.
  • APPEARANCE: Long and slender, tapering to a point.
  • AVAILABILITY: All Year, best between September and March as cooler months affect the heat of the chilli
  • FLAVOUR: Range from Mild and Sweet to moderately hot
    • Green: Hot
    • Red: Sweet and spicy
  • THE BURN: Hot. Similar to Tabasco. Scoville = 30,000- 60,000
  • BEST FOR: Indian, Chinese, Indonesian and Thai Cuisine

 

Image: Simon George & Sons

JALAPENO:

  • COLOUR: Green (sometimes allowed to mature to red)
  • APPEARANCE: Medium sized, 5-9cm long, firm
  • AVAILABILITY: All Year
  • FLAVOUR: Spicy capsicum
  • THE BURN: Medium- Hot. Scoville = 10,000
  • BEST FOR: Seasoning, spicing up sauces, salsa, soups

HABANERO:

  • COLOUR: Unripe habaneros are green but when mature can be orange, red, brown, pink or even white
  • APPEARANCE: Habaneros are short and look like a small bell pepper with the air sucked out.
  • AVAILABILITY: All year, best in Nov-Mar
  • FLAVOUR: Hot and Spicy with a hint of citrus/tropical
  • THE BURN: The deep burn, the Habanero is one of the hottest available averaging between 100,000-350,000 on the Scoville scale (some have been known to hit 600,000)
  • BEST FOR: An angry sauce!

BIRDS EYE:

Alias: Thai Chilli

  • COLOUR: Red when mature, but can also be yellow, purple or black
  • APPEARANCE: Small and round, lots of seeds
  • AVAILABILITY: All Year
  • FLAVOUR: Punchy
  • THE BURN: Hot!! Scoville = 50-000 to 100,000
  • BEST FOR: Thai, Vietnamese and Cambodian dishes- adding heat to pasta, soups, sauces, salads and dips

BANANA CHILLI

Alias: Hungarian Yellow Wax

Image: www.marketfresh.com.au

  • COLOUR: Yellow to orange.
  • APPEARANCE: Curved, comes to a point. Thick, waxy flesh
  • AVAILABILITY: All Year
  • FLAVOUR: Sweet and Hot, similar in heat to a Jalapeno
  • THE BURN: Medium-Hot. Scoville = 5,000 – 10,000
  • BEST FOR: Stuffing, soups, sauces and salads

BISHOP’S CROWN:

Alias: Christmas Bell

Image: chilipeppermadness.com

  • COLOUR: Immature is pale green, matures to red
  • APPEARANCE: Distinct wings on 3 to 4 pods
  • AVAILABILITY: In height of season
  • FLAVOUR: Fruity and spicy
  • THE BURN: Medium- Hot. Scoville = 5,000- 30,000
  • BEST FOR: Salsa, stir fries, drying or pickling

A: The hottest chilli recorded to date is the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T Pepper which recorded over 1,400,000 on the Scoville rating. They’re so hot they come with a safety warning! “Exposure to the eye or skin near the eyes when handling this pepper could cause temporary blindness. While preparing the Butch T, one should wear a chemical mask or a body suit to defend against fumes given off in the cooking process.” To give you an idea of how hot that is, the second strongest chilli in the world, the Bhut Jolokia, is being used by the Indian military as an anti-terrorist measure. Used as Chilli Grenades they choke the enemy’s respiratory tract, leaving targets barely able to breathe, while their eyes, throat and skin, burn and sting. Now that’s explosive.

 

 

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