sweet and biting pepper- CAPSICUM
Savoured as sweet and biting pepper, the capsicum finds its place in several cuisines ranging from plain salads to pizza toppings.
The earliest sweet and biting pepper, capsicum crops were cultivated by Americans somewhere between 5200 B.C – 400 B.C. Subsequently, it was introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus in the fifteenth century and brought to India by the Portuguese around 1885. China began cultivating the bell pepper in 1700 and is the largest producer of capsicum on a global scale.
Shimla Mirch – the Indian name
In the mid-fifties, capsicum was first grown in the hills of Shimla on an experimental basis.
The field of Kandaghat saw the first bloom of capsicum in the country. Since then it has been used for commercial purposes with the name -’ Shimla Mirch’. The fields look like green carpet when in full bloom.
Kingdom – Plantae
Scientific name – capsicum
Family – Solanaceae
Higher classification – capsiceae
Rank – genus
Order – solanales
Cultivation in India
Presently, Karnataka is the largest producer of capsicum. The primary capsicum growing regions of India are – Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and the Deccan plateau.
It is grown on a limited scale in a few other areas.
Indian capsicum has a high commercial value in both domestic and international markets. Many of India’s commercial varieties have earned names like the world-beater, the Yolo wonder, and the bullnose.
Food processing industries demand capsicum on a large scale. The red and yellow peppers however fetch more money than the green ones.
Ideal growing conditions
Capsicum is cultivated in warm areas with loamy soil. Temperatures ranging from 21-29 degrees are suitable for the plant. Extremely moist soils can cause the seedlings to damp off and reduce germination. The plants are sensitive to extremes of temperature.
Apart from being composed of the active pungent principles, the capsicums constitute capsaicinoids, which are a chemical group of non-volatile alkaloid compounds. they also contain ascorbic acid, fixed oil, thiamine, and carotenoid pigments. Carotenoid pigments along with capsthanin and capsorubin are fatty esters that are not found in any other plant or animal species.
Medicinal properties- anti-bacterial,anti-microbial,anti-carcinogenic and anti-diabetic
The bell pepper is rich in vitamin B6 and helps manufacture serotonin and regulate hormones.it can be taken orally to treat an upset stomach, intestinal gas, stomach ache, diarrhoea, and cramps. It is a remedy to heart-related disorders, burning mouth syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, joint pains, stomach ulcers, and alcoholism. It is also a natural diuretic. It can even be applied directly to the skin for the pain caused by shingles, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, diabetes, and muscular pain. It reduces pain sensations when applied to the skin.
It is often put on the nose to treat hay fever, migraine headaches, cluster headaches, and sinus infections.
There is a particular form of capsicum that causes intense eye pain and finds application in self-defence pepper sprays.
However, excessive consumption of capsicum isn’t recommended owing to several side effects.
In the culinary delights
Capsicum finds its place in several recipes. The fruit doesn’t feature in desserts recipes but is a part of steamed, baked, and stir-fried ones.
Salads, Asian stir-fries, Mexican fajita dishes, barbeque skewers, hummus dips, soups, pizza toppings, pasta sauces, panini sandwiches, and many more delicacies embrace the taste of capsicum.
Capsicum is a blend of sweet and salty tastes. It is crisp, watery, crunchy, slightly bitter, and has a celery texture. The flavour can be compared to cucumber and the white part of a watermelon rind.
Refrigeration increases the shelf life of capsicums. It is quite interesting to know that in a few places, capsicum is sold in packages of three-green, yellow and red and is called traffic light peppers.
The word capsicum is derived from the Greek word – Kapto which means to bite or swallow.
There are five species of capsicum that are domestically cultivated – capsicum annum which is the most popular one, capsicum Chinese that originated in the Amazon basin, capsicum baccatum with a distinctive flower colouring, and capsicum pubescens with vibrant purple colours.
With the advancement in the food processing sector, the demand for capsicum is expected to reach heights in the future and the bell pepper shall soon spice up both – the commercial market and the food basket of India.