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Chilli pepper: 5 mistakes we make often
Chilli pepper: 5 mistakes we make often

It seems that women, genetically, perceive the spicy taste more intensely than men and, therefore, love it less.

Having received this information, I found myself reflecting on how developed my male part is.

Because I love the chili pepper. In all its forms: fresh in rounds, dry in powder, in paste and in sauce.

An ingredient that I would put (in fact, put) just about everywhere but that has many pitfalls. Like the 5 errors, the most common, which I am going to list.

1. To think that the Calabrians are the strongest in the world

chillies, reds
chillies, reds

They are good, sure. Spicy, there is no doubt. But on the Scoville scale, the one that measures the degree of intensity of peppers, the Calabrians are quite low: between 15 thousand and 30 thousand units.

To be clear, the pure capsaicin, which is the spicy active ingredient, reaches 16 million units. The American Carolina Riper, probably the hottest in the world, seems to reach 2 million, although the figure is controversial among experts, but in short, that's the order of magnitude. The Mexican yellow Habanero is close to 500 thousand.

Examples only. From which it can be deduced, however, that despite generations proudly raised in 'nduja, munching diavolilli at breakfast (but also pappacelli from Campania), sorry to say but you are not the champions.

The South Americans beat you (after all, the chilli pepper seems to be native to Bolivia) and the Orientals, Thai in the lead.

Even if the latter are strong, but with few nuances of taste, while the South Americans, like our own, have a greater and appreciable aromatic complexity.

2. Just watch it

green chili
green chili

You thought that the color identified the spiciness of a chili. And you took the Peruvian Aji lightly, looking pretty harmless with that nice orange color, so nice.

You have abounded by spreading it with both hands on your homemade ceviche, and now you are on fire (by the way, in case run to step 5). Because you did not know that the color of the chili pepper says little or nothing.

Apart from the green, which always identifies immature peppers and therefore, yes, gentler than if they were picked in full season (the Mexican Jalapeño, so to speak), all the other shades from yellow to red are only distinctive characteristics of the different species. But they have no relationship with the amount of capsaicin present in the fruit.

The error referred to in point 3 derives from this important premise.

3. Try it blindly

chillies, pot
chillies, pot

If you know what you have on your hands, you will know for yourself how to behave. If, on the other hand, you are picking the first fruits of a new plant or, at the market, you have bought chillies that have never been tried before, tasting is not an option but an obligation.

Because if the dosage is wrong, you ruin the dish. Spicy covers everything. Even the taste of good oil and expertly browned garlic in a midnight spaghetti.

But be careful: doing the test on the final part, the tip of the chilli pepper, know that you are still tasting the least spicy. The why in the next point.

The tasting test also applies to dried chillies which, if "fresh" (that is, of recent production) will be more intense, while they will lose as they mature in your pantry.

Same goes for flakes (roughly crushed dried chillies) and powders. The latter should not be confused with paprika, which is made from a variety of sweet pepper, although it also exists in a spicy version, and characterized by a distinctive aroma different from that of simple chili.

Finally, as regards pastas, sauces and the like, of course there is no rule: it depends on the recipe and on the presence of other strong ingredients, such as pepper or ginger. Although I have experienced that the Thai ones are, together with the Indians, among the most "bad".

4. Believe that the spiciness is in the seeds

green chillies
green chillies

How many times have you read, in a recipe, "you deprive the chili of the seeds"? I myself have written it thousands of times and, in a certain sense, inappropriately.

Because capsaicin is not inside the seeds but in the vaguely gelatinous substance that surrounds them. It is called "placenta" and it is the system that mother nature, always wonderful, has devised precisely to protect the seeds and thus ensure the continuation of the species.

This substance is, in fact, a strong bactericide and antioxidant. It is also present in sweet peppers but in this case the molecular structure differs in the arrangement of the atoms and is not spicy.

However, be careful: if you grow spicy varieties alongside others that are not, in the latter the molecule is "activated" and they too become spicy, something that perhaps those who have a vegetable garden have experienced.

Going back to where capsaicin is, it is evident that the parts most in contact with the placenta will in a certain sense be "infected": in addition to the seeds, the filaments to which they are attached and the pulp nearby. This is why the tip of the chilli pepper, devoid of seeds, is a little less strong than the part close to the stalk.

5. Not knowing how to put out the fire

chili powder
chili powder

Why do we feel spicy? Because capsaicin activates the same receptors that perceive heat. This explains the existence of recipes that, for example, combine chilli peppers with refreshing herbs, such as mint or simple parsley.

What happens if, after having tasted a bite that is too spicy, we drink (water, wine or beer)? That the liquid dilutes and spreads around the substances responsible for the intense taste. In short, it does not put out the fire but, on the contrary, it feeds it.

Instead, there is a substance that contrasts the spicy ones and it is casein, which blocks their absorption at the level of the receptors.

Do you understand why Indians drink chai (tea with milk and sugar) and lassi (yoghurt drink)? And why in Mexican cuisine is it used to accompany dishes with sour cream, sour cream?

Of course, we are in the context of overdose. Which - and I repeat - is truly the most unforgivable mistake you can make. If pepper has to be, then it is chili. But spicy famolo, not inedible.

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