Pick A Pepper
Peppers are one of the key ingredients that give Mexican food its distinctive flavor and punch. What might surprise you is that Mexican cooking uses more than just one type of pepper. A wide variety of peppers are used, depending on the dish, to add both flavor and heat to the food. These vegetables come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Each one has its own unique taste and level of heat or spiciness. Bell peppers are sweet and not hot at all, whereas some varieties of chili peppers are so hot that they can blister the skin when you touch them!
When Columbus first visited the “New World”, the native people introduced him to the chili pepper. When he tasted it, the sharpness and heat of the plant reminded him of black pepper, a popular and sought out spice from the orient. Thinking these plants were related, he called these new ones “pepper”, and that is why we use that name today. When leaving the Caribbean, Columbus brought seeds from the chili pepper back to Spain, and eventually the use of the plant spread throughout Europe. It was the Portuguese traders who later introduced the American pepper to Asia and India, where they quickly made their way into all kinds of culinary dishes. Peppers are now cultivated and used in cooking all over the world.
Peppers have nutritional and medicinal benefits to offer as well. Bell peppers are high in vitamins A and C. Capsaicin, the component in pepper that gives it “heat”, promotes sweating and helps the body to cool down. It is also used in ointments to relieve sore muscles, nerve pain and discomfort from arthritis. For more information on peppers, please check out our “pepper poster.”