||pepper also called GARDEN PEPPER (Capsicum), any of a great number
of plants of
the nightshade family, Solanaceae, notably Capsicum annuum, C.
frutescens, and C. boccatum, extensively cultivated throughout tropical
Asia and equatorial America for their edible, pungent fruits. Peppers,
have been found in prehistoric remains in Peru, were widely grown in
Central and South America in pre-Columbian times. Pepper seeds were
carried to Spain in 1493 and from there spread rapidly throughout Europe.
The genus Capsicum comprises all the varied forms of fleshy-fruited
peppers grown as herbaceous annuals--the red, green, and yellow peppers
rich in vitamins A and C that are used in seasoning and as a vegetable
food. Hot peppers, used as relishes, pickled, or ground into a fine
for use as spices, derive their pungency from the compound capsaicin,
substance characterized by acrid vapours and burning taste, that is
in the internal partitions of the fruit. First isolated in 1876, capsaicin
stimulates gastric secretions and, if used in excess, causes inflammation.
In addition to the cherry (Cerasiforme group) and red cluster (Fasciculatum),
varieties, which are red when mature, include the tabasco (Conoides),
which is commonly
ground and mixed with vinegar to produce a hot sauce, and the long
"hot" chili and cayenne
(Longum), often called capsicums. Cayenne pepper, said to have originated
in Cayenne in
French Guiana, is one of the spices derived from these peppers and
is produced in many parts
of the world.
The mild bell or sweet peppers (Grossum) have larger, variously coloured
bell-shaped, furrowed, puffy fruits that are used in salads and in
cooked dishes. These varieties
are harvested when bright green in colour--before the appearance of
red or yellow
pigment--about 60-80 days after transplanting.
The term "pimiento," from the Spanish for "pepper," is applied to certain
mild pepper varieties
possessing distinctive flavour but lacking in pungency; these include
the European paprikas,
which include the paprika of commerce, a powdered red condiment that
was known in Hungary
by the late 16th century. "Pimiento," often pronounced the same as
"pimento," should not be
confused with the latter, which is allspice.
Pepper plants are treated as tender summer annuals outside their native
habitat. They are
propagated by planting seed directly in the field or by transplanting
seedlings started in
greenhouses or hotbeds after six to ten weeks.
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