What is a cayenne pepper plant (Capsicum frutescens)?
Characteristics of cayenne pepper plant
Cayenne pepper or paprika is a type of red pepper that is obtained by grinding some species of dried chili peppers, cayenne mainly (Capsicum frutescens= Capsicum fastigiatum).
Sometimes, in addition to this type of pepper, Peruvian yellow chili species are also used, also called pickled pepper (Capsicum baccatum).
Capsicum frutescens is a shrub of the Solanaceae family that grows wild in Central America and tropical and subtropical regions of South America. It differs from most peppers because it is a much more vigorous plant with a much higher density of plant material.
This is actually a shrub that can reach one meter in height and not a grass like other cultivated edible pepper. Fruits are drupes up to 5 cm long, red at maturity, which are characterized by being intensely spicy.
The fruits, when dried, are ground into a powder used as a spice known as cayenne pepper. This type of pepper cayenne is called in honor of the city of the same name that is currently the capital of French Guiana.
The name was given by Christopher Columbus who called it this way because he thought it was a variety of black pepper:
It is one of the most prized spices of the so called Spice Trade, not realizing that in fact it was the dust extracted from a variety of Chile or Chili, that’s to say, hot pepper.
The cayenne pepper or hot pepper has no relationship with the usual pepper or black pepper, obtained from pepper plant (Piper nigrum), a climbing shrub of southeastern India.
A drawing of Capsicum frutescens
Food properties of cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper, like other hot peppers or chillies, is used in cooking as a spice to flavor many dishes. It is a spice that is widely used in South American cuisine and Asian cooking (Cuisine of India, Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanca, etc.
Within the South American cuisine, we have to mention such interesting dishes such as mole or “chile con carne”.
Unlike the sweet red pepper, cayenne pepper should be used more sparingly, not only to prevent the food to have a too strong taste and smell, besides it may be too strong for some stomachs.
Apart from giving a touch of flavor and odor characteristic, cayenne pepper, like other peppers, is very useful to get digest foods that have a more difficult digestion (Meat dishes, seafood, marinated fish, stews, etc.) Also, in smaller amounts, it can be used to flavor vegetable dishes, salads, eggplant, squash, potatoes, peppers, ratatouille, etc..
Add this spice to meals, especially to help those with “lazy”stomachs as a remedy for indigestion.
Cayenne also becomes part of a series of hot sauces like curry, hot sauce, tomato cream, etc.
How to prepare a sauce with Cayenne pepper
A strong and very distinctive sauce can be done, for example, by mixing half a teaspoon of cayenne in a pint of olive oil and add to the mixture three or four cloves of garlic. This produces a sauce that can really be explosive when used to flavor grilled meats.
Another interesting recipe is to let a goat cheese in a bowl with olive oil to which a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper and a couple of cloves have been added.
How to buy and keep cayenne pepper?
Cayenne pepper can be bought whole or ground. In one way or another, it can be used in the kitchen. When storing it should be kept in a glass container, well sealed in a cool, dry place.
There is also the possibility of buying or chilli pepper that can be stored by hanging them in a pantry to maintain adequate moisture and freshness. Preserved thus it will endure long enough.
You can access them when needed to be used directly, once they have been washed well, or, if you desire Cayenne pepper dust, it should be ground.
More information about Cayenne pepper and other types of peppers.
2 July, 2021