Chillies – Too hot to handle ?
If you can’t handle eating chillies consider yourself normal. Heat is the chilly plants defense system to stop mammals from eating it. Birds on the other hand have no problem; unlike humans the capsaicin in the chilly does not bind to their pain receptors found in their nerves causing them to feel the sharp pain. The distinct burning that we talk about after biting into a chilly is really pain that we experience. And while birds simply crap out the seeds, helping another chilly plant to dandy out of the soil, humans can end up anywhere from a pleasant food experience to a hospital bed. But then again, if you cannot handle chilly, how sorry your palette must be, for nothing can replace the taste of this unique plant in its contribution to food.
Peppers would be the correct way to address a chilly; that is really the broad classification of these ‘domesticated’ heat seeking food missiles. Those peppers which have capsaicin are called chilies, the rest we commonly call bell peppers or capsicums. The bell peppers are sweet when ripe unlike their ‘hot’ cousins. These hot little things originated from Peru, Bolivia and Chile which were at one time part of a larger geographical location called the Tawantinsuyu Empire or more famously the land of the Incas. Residuals of chilli seeds also go back to 3500 BC and have been found in ancient cooking vessels in many archaeological digs in Mexico.
Chillies are not native to India! Like tomatoes and potatoes there is a long list of now well-loved Indian vegetables, fruits, spices, snacks and deserts (samosa and gulb jamun included) that made India their home. Interestingly, potato in Portuguese is called ‘batata’, the same word for the vegetable in local Indian languages like Marathi and Konkani. The Portuguese, like all colonists, were principally interested in trade. Christianity and the Cross were really way down on their shopping cart list; a truth that is often found hard to digest and heavily bandied around by some religious fanatics. Among the items that Vasco da Gama was credited to bring into India was the chilly.
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