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Get to know: Red and Green Chillies

 Red thai chilli

Red and Green Thai Chillies

Thai food is known for its intense flavours and the heat of fresh Thai chilli peppers. Despite their fiery hotness, they are one of the very popular spices known for their medicinal and health benefiting properties.

Thai Chillies Peppers

Despite the common belief, there is no single "Thai chilli pepper" though most candidates for the title are small in size and high in heat or pungency. There are at least 79 separate varieties of chilli that have appeared from three species in Thailand.

While the names of chilli peppers are often "hotly" debated and therefore in a volatile state of flux the world over, some would say that there is particular confusion when the subject comes around to Thai peppers.

Prik num or "banana peppers," for instance, also resemble a New Mexican pepper, and they are also grown in Kashmir, India, and thus are also known as Kashmir peppers.

Chilli Peppers

The chilli is a fruit pod of the plant belonging to the nightshade family (Solanaceae), of the genus, Capsicum. Scientific name: Capsicum annum. Some of the other common members of the Solanaceae family are tomato, aubergine, potato, etc. Several cultivars of chilli peppers grown all around the world. Depending upon cultivar type, it bears flowers which subsequently develop into fruit pods of variable size, shape, colour, and pungency. Moreover, again, depending on the cultivar type, their hotness ranges from mild and fleshy to fiery and tiny chilli peppers.

The hotness of chilli measured in “Scoville heat units” (SHU). On the Scoville scale, a sweet bell pepper scores 0, a jalapeño pepper around 2,500-4,000 units, and Mexican habañeros may have 200,000 to 500,000 units. Inside, each chilli fruit pod features numerous tiny, white, or cream coloured, circular, flat seeds which clinging on to the central white-placenta.

To harvest; chillies picked up while they are green, or when they reach full maturity and dry on the plant itself. In general, the fruits are ready for harvesting once they mature and turn red. They are then left to dry in sunlight and shrinks in size. Thai Chillies have a strong spicy taste that comes to them from the active alkaloid compounds: capsaicin, capsanthin, and capsorubin.

How are they used?

Whatever the case regarding names, they usually turn up ground from fresh to add heat to curry pastes for very spicy dishes and for very colourful dishes at the same time - the traditional Thai cook being as interested in presentation as the traditional Japanese cook, for instance, and therefore garnishing hot dishes with a pleasing array of hot peppers.

Thai chilli peppers also appear in another Asian cuisine including that of Myanmar, where they are known as nga yut thee, frequently featuring in curries, as well as in balachong, a spicy relish never absent from any meal. Laotian cuisine utilizes similar peppers and calls them mak phet; they appear in pastes and even end up stuffed and steamed to create spicy vegetable and fish dishes. Related peppers are also known to be favoured in Cambodia, and are widespread in Vietnam where they enliven pastes and sauces, especially those with local fish flavours, of course.

Health benefits

Chilli pepper contains an impressive list of plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have disease preventing and health-promoting properties.

They contain health benefiting an alkaloid compound, capsaicin, which gives them strong spicy, pungent character. Early laboratory studies on experimental mammals suggest that capsaicin has antibacterial, anticarcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. It also found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese.

Fresh Thai chilli peppers, red and green, are a rich source of vitamin-C. 100 g fresh chillies provide about 143.7 µg or about 240% of RDA. Vitamin-C is a potent water-soluble antioxidant. It is essential for the collagen synthesis inside the human body. Collagen is one of the main structural protein required for maintaining the integrity of blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps protect from scurvy, develop resistance against infectious agents (boosts immunity), and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.

They are also good in other antioxidants such as vitamin-A, and flavonoids like ß-carotene, α -carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidant substances in capsicum help protect the body from injurious effects of free radicals generated during stress, diseases conditions.

Thai Chillies carry a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. The human body uses manganese as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.

These vitamins are essential in the sense that the human body requires them from external sources to replenish. Chilli peppers have amazingly high levels of vitamins and minerals. Just 100 g provides (in % of recommended daily allowance):

240% of vitamin-C (Ascorbic acid),

39% of vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine), 32% of vitamin A, 13% of iron, 14% of copper, 7% of potassium,

Zero cholesterol.

As with any herbal remedy, consult a medical professional before making a major change in your supplement schedule.

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