Peppers - history, production, trade
The pepper is a fresh vegetable that belongs to the family of Solanaceae, to which belong also the plants of tomatoes, the plants of potatoes and of aubergines: like tomatoes, their origins have to be traced in South America and, more precisely in the regions of Brazil and Jamaica.
The pepper is a vegetable present on the world fruit and vegetable market with countless different varieties, some of which are sweeter and others more or less hot.
The varieties of peppers differ not only for their taste, but also for their shape (on the fruit and vegetable market there are elongated peppers, conical peppers or square peppers ) and for their colour, which can range from yellow (more soft and juicy), to red (which have a crisp, thick and sugary flesh), to green (they are peppers which are harvested before their complete ripening, they would in fact become red or yellow if left on the plant, according to the variety of peppers cultivated).
On the world fruit and vegetable market there are five different species of peppers: the most widespread and cultivated varieties of peppers belongs to the genus Capsicum annuum, to which belong many varieties of sweet peppers, but also some varieties of hot peppers (called also chilli peppers) and plants of ornamental peppers.
The other, proportionally less cultivated, varieties of peppers are: the Capsicum baccatum; the Capsicum chinense, South American species, probably native to Amazonia, which includes also the variety of chilli peppers Habanero, which until 2006 held the Guinness record as the world most hot pepper; the Capsicum frutescens, variety of peppers which includes Tabasco and the Capsicum pubescens,, which includes the South American variety of peppers rocoto.
When purchasing this fruit and vegetable product, it is important to recognize fresh peppers: the petiole must be attached to the pepper, the surface must be smooth and tense, bright and free of stains, while the flesh of this vegetable must be firm and quite heavy.
The pepper can be kept in the refrigerator, in the appropriate drawer for fresh fruit and vegetable, for about four days. However, if the pepper is consumed fresh, it can be stored up to two weeks; if sliced in stripes or diced and then scalded or grilled, the pepper can be frozen or even canned in oil or in vinegar. If dried and ground, instead, peppers can be stored in glass pots kept away from any source of heat and from sunlight.
The taste of peppers is determined above all by a substance present in seeds (more precisely in the placenta, that is in the white ribs present inside the pepper) and in the flesh of this vegetable, the capsaicin. It is an alkaloid that, together with other four natural substance called capsacinoids, is present in large quantities in hot peppers, while it is absent or present in small quantities in the varieties of sweet peppers.
The capsaicin, and therefore the peppers hotness is measured according to the Scoville scale. A pepper is sweet if the capsaicin level ranges between 0 and 500, while, for example, one of the world hottest peppers (variety Habanero) can contain capsaicin up to the level of 600.000. Note that if swallowed in large quantities, capsaicin can cause inflammation and pain, and even cause burns: for this reason it is necessary to use gloves when harvesting some varieties of hot peppers.
The pepper is a vegetable product that can be consumed raw, for example in salads, or cooked in pans, baked or grilled: this fresh vegetable, in fact, is suitable to many cuisine recipes, some of which are very popular, such as for example the "peperonata”, stuffed peppers or fried peppers.
Peppers are vegetables very low in calories and, for this reason they are particularly suitable in low-calorie slimming diets. This fruit and vegetable product is also rich in vitamin A and vitamin C (its content of vitamin C exceeds that of tomatoes and citrus fruits), in calcium, phosphorus, potassium, because of the presence of substances such as lecithin, capsaicin and pectin. Especially if consumed raw, peppers give to the body very important substances, such as mineral salts, fats, sugars, proteins and vitamins.
Thanks to this nutritional substances, peppers have an antineuralgic, antirheumatic, diuretic action and stimulate the venous and capillary circulation systems. Peppers, however, are not recommended to people who suffer from gastric ulcer and acid stomach, because it is not always easy to digest. For this reason, sweet varieties of peppers are consumed more than other, as they are more digestive, compared to the varieties of hot peppers that are more heavy and therefore not recommended in children diets.
In general the less digestive part of peppers is the skin: to eliminate the problem of the digestibility of this fruit and vegetable product, an excellent remedy is in fact to peel the peppers by roasting them for some minutes. In this way it is easier to eliminate the external pellicle which envelops this vegetable (skin) and therefore the flesh becomes more digestive.
The hottest varieties of peppers (chilli peppers), as sweet peppers, are rich in vitamin C and have a great antioxidant action: for this reason hot peppers are known to be antitumor, apart from being useful in curing some diseases such as sinusitis, cold and bronchitis.They, unlike sweet peppers, enhance the digestion.
All these qualities are mainly due to the presence of the capsaicin, which is able to increase the secretion of mucus and gastric juice. Chilli peppers can also be used as painkillers in case of arthritis and furthermore, by stimulating the intestinal peristalsis, enhance the transit, which, together with the antibacterial and antifungal action, does not permit fermentation and therefore the formation of intestinal gas and toxins.
The flesh of peppers, as that of many varieties of other fresh fruit and vegetable products, can be used as a domestic remedy in cosmetics, to prepare a hydrating and nutritive mask.
Peppers have increased their importance worldwide: nowadays, there are many companies that produce peppers, certified companies for the production of peppers, producers of peppers, companies that produce organic peppers, companies that deal with the trade of peppers (packaging of peppers, fourth range peppers), retailers of peppers, importers of peppers, exporters of peppers and wholesalers of peppers.