Chillies are the fiery cousins of the capsicum family. There are dozens of varieties, each with a unique character and flavour. Colour isn’t a good indicator of heat – size is more reliable, and in general, smaller chillies pack a bigger punch.
The heat in chillies comes from the chemical capsaicin, which is concentrated in the seeds and inner membranes. The hottest chilli in the world is the Naga Jolokia chilli (loosely, the name likens the ‘bite’ to that of a King Cobra snake). On the Scoville scale (yes, there is a scale to measure chilli heat), Tabasco sauce rates at 2500-5000 Scoville units, Habaneros score 100,000-350,000 and Naga Jolokias clock in at 1,040,000. Wildlife experts in regions of India are even experimenting with this chilli (smeared on fences and as an integral ingredient in smoke bombs) as a way to prevent wild elephants from destroying homes and crops.
Chillies are said to be anti-bacterial, to speed up metabolism and to cause the brain to release endorphins, giving you a natural sense of well-being.
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