[Chili Peppers]

Do you like spicy food? The hottest chili pepper in the world today is the American "Pepper X," which was certified by Guinness World Records in 2023, replacing the "Carolina Reaper." However, all those who tasted this pepper suffered serious health problems.

There are two types of chili peppers: pungent, or hot, and sweet, or non-pungent, and the term "chili pepper" generally refers to the pungent variety. Spicy peppers include hawk peppers, Korean peppers, jalapeno peppers, and Kyoto's specialty, the long, thin Kyo-Fushimi chili pepper. Sweet chili peppers are Shishito peppers, bell peppers, bell peppers, and Manganji peppers. Chili peppers are said to be spicy at the seed, but it is the white part around the seed, called "placenta," that is spicy. If fresh chili peppers have the placenta removed, the spiciness is reduced and the chili pepper tastes more like a shishito pepper. However, dried peppers have the pungency transferred to the seeds and pulp, so the other parts of the pepper become pungent as well.

Chili peppers, a member of the Solanaceae family of peppers native to Central and South America, were brought back to Spain from the Americas by Columbus during the Age of Discovery and spread throughout the world, where they have been used mainly as spice. Chili peppers are sometimes called "namban" in regions such as Hokkaido and Tohoku, "togarashi" in Kanto, Kansai, and Shikoku, and "kosho" in Kyushu and Okinawa. For example, "yuzu kosho" is made from green chili peppers, but it is called "yuzu kosho" instead of "yuzu togarashi." "Nanban" means "introduced by Nanban ships," and "唐辛子 (chili)" means "hot pepper introduced from Tang." Historically, "唐 (Tang)" here vaguely refers to a foreign country. The "胡 (Hu)" in "胡椒 (pepper)" means the northern and western regions of China, and refers to a wide range of foreign countries, especially China, while "椒" indicates a spicy spice. In other words, it is a foreign spicy food.

Chili peppers were first introduced to Japan in the 16th century, and at that time they were called "korai kosho" and "nanban kosho." The names "kosho" and "namban" are thought to be old words that existed before the word "chili" was coined. The reason why the name "togarashi" did not spread in Kyushu is that it sounded like "唐枯らし (karakarashi)," which means "China will wither," and it is written in the essay "Naianroku" written by an official of the shogunate in Nagasaki during the Edo period that the people of Nagasaki did not use it out of consideration for those who came from China. On the other hand, in Okinawa, there is a word "koregusu" meaning all peppers in the genus Capsicum, which is said to be derived from the word "korai kosho," but now it refers to an Okinawan seasoning made by soaking island peppers in awamori, which was inspired by chili pepper water that Okinawans who emigrated to Hawaii passed on when they returned home. It is said to have been inspired by chili pepper water, which was passed on by Okinawan immigrants to Hawaii upon their return.

The main ingredient in chili peppers is capsaicin, a pungent flavor enhancer. The main effects of capsaicin are known to be appetite stimulation, fat breakdown, blood flow improvement, cholesterol reduction, constipation relief, hair growth, and hair nourishment. Capsaicin is used in the transdermal treatment of back pain, muscle pain, stiff shoulders, rheumatism, joint pain, neuralgia, and cold sores, as capsaicin improves blood flow to increase metabolism and eliminate pain-producing substances and capsaicin-induced sensory nerve numbing to relieve pain. On the nutritional side of chili peppers, they are rich in beta-carotene and vitamin E, and raw they are also rich in vitamin C.

And about spiciness. Actually, spiciness is not a taste. There are only five "tastes" (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami), and spiciness is physiologically classified not as a taste but as a "painful" sensation. In other words, spiciness is a sensation produced by the brain, which mistakes a stimulus for a taste. People who like spicy food tend to become accustomed to the "spicy" taste, and it tends to escalate. When the pain sensation persists, the brain secretes β-endorphin, a substance that has analgesic effects. β-endorphin is also a substance that makes us feel delicious and pleasant, and people tend to escalate their desire to feel this pleasant sensation again.

It is said that people in regions with hot summers, such as India, Thailand, Sichuan, and Hunan provinces in China, Mexico, and West Africa, prefer chili peppers to increase appetite, promote sweating, and prevent heat exhaustion. However, even in regions that are not so hot, such as Korea and Bhutan, there are food cultures that prefer chili peppers. Nevertheless, especially during your travels, eat healthily and in moderation, especially if you are eating peculiar chili dishes.

Otera Kohachiro Shoten's Kanamari M