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Capsicum Annuum Chili peppers Solanaceae  


20 pages


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Capsicum annuum

Although the species name annuum means “annual” (from the Latin annus “year”), the plant is not an annual and in the absence of winter frosts can survive several seasons and grow into a large perennial shrub. The single flowers are an off-white (sometimes purplish) color whilst the stem is densely branched and up to 60 centimetres (24 in) tall. When ripe, the fruit may be green, yellow or red. Whilst the species can tolerate most climates, C. annuum is especially productive in warm and dry climates.

The species is a source of popular sweet peppers and hot chilis with numerous varieties cultivated all around the world. In American English the plant is commonly known as a chili pepper or bell pepper.

In British English, the sweet varieties are called red or green peppers and the hot varieties chillies, whereas in Australian and Indian English the name capsicum is commonly used for bell peppers exclusively and chilli is often used to encompass the hotter varieties.

Sweet peppers are very often used as a bulking agent in cheap ready made meals/take-away food as they are cheap, have a strong flavour, and are colorful. The colorful aspect of peppers increases the visual appeal of the food, making it more appetizing. Foods containing peppers, especially chili peppers, often have a strong aftertaste this is due to the presence of capsinoids in peppers. Capsaicin, a chemical found in chili peppers, creates a burning sensation once ingested which can last for several hours after ingestion.

Hot peppers are used in medicine as well as food in Africa and other countries.

English botanist John Lindley described C. annuum on page 509 of his 1838 'Flora Medica' thus:
“ It is employed in medicine, in combination with Cinchona in intermittent and lethargic affections, and also in atonic gout, dyspepsia accompanied by flatulence, tympanitis, paralysis etc. Its most valuable application appears however to be in cynanche maligna (acute diptheria) and scarlatina maligna (malignent Scarlet fever, used either as a gargle or administered internally. ”

In ayurvedic medicine, C. annuum is classified as follows:

Gunna (properties) – ruksh (dry), laghu (light) and tikshan (sharp)
Rasa dhatu (taste) – katu (pungent)
Virya (potency) – ushan (hot)

It is considered efficacious for a wide variety of symptoms including sore throat and fever.

Some cultivars grown specifically for their aesthetic value include the U.S. National Arboretum's Black Pearl and the Bolivian Rainbow. Ornamental varieties tend to have unusually coloured fruit and foliage with colurs such as black and purple being notable. All are edible, and most (like Royal Black) are mild. Ornamental chillies are also generally more susceptible to disease and adverse weather conditions owing to their extravagant nature and genetic modification specifically for appearance.