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The Healing Powers of Peppers - From a South African Perspective

"Veola" (2018-02-10)

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Today, peppers rank second in importance only to Piper nigrum (black pepper) among the worlds spices, and hundreds of different cultivars are grown in warm regions, and under cover in temperate parts. About ten wild species and four or five domesticated species of shrubby annuals, biennials, and perennials are included in the tropical American genus (Capsicum, pepper, Solanacae).

Capsicum peppers were first described in 1493 by Dr Chauca, a physician on Christopher Columbus's voyage, and were introduced from S america to India and Africa by the Portuguese. China and Turkey are the worlds largest chilli pepper producing nations, and most major producers (C and S America,West Indies, USA, Japan,, Thailand,Hungary,Italy) have cultivars adapted to local conditions and cuisines.

Capsicum may be derived from the latin capsa susun "box", from its characteristically hollow fruits. Most cultivated peppers belong to C. annuum and may be divided into 5 groups:

1. Cerasiforme (cherry)

2. Conioides (cone)

3. Fasciculatum (red cone)

4. Grossum (bell pepper, pimento, sweet pepper)

5. Longum (cayenne)

Medicinal properties: They are all rich in Vitamin C, pungcency is due to a bitter, acrid alkaloid, capsaicin, which is the main therapeutic and flavouring compound in hot peppers. Its presence depends on a single gene, and cultivars lacking this gene have sweet fruits. Internally for the cold stage of fevers, debility in convalescence or old age, varicose veins, poor circulation, asthma and digestive problems. Externally for sprains, arthritis, unbroken chilblains, neuralgia, lumbago, and pleurisy, and combined with Commiphora myrrha as a gargle for laryngitis

Culinary uses: Both sweet and hot cultivars can be used ripe or raw, fresh or dried, as vegetables stuffed, and in curries, pickles and chutneys

Cultivation: Peppers enjoy rich well-drained soil in a sunny area. C. pubesence, C. baccatum and C. pendulum can withstand cooler climates, all peppers will die off in severe cold conditions.

Harvesting: Fruits can be picked ripe or unripe.

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