by Dave DeWitt
The founder of Fiery Foods Magazine, coproducer of the National Fiery Foods Show, and author of numerous books about hot and spicy cooking, Dave DeWitt knows his chile peppers. He shares the wealth of a quarter century of red-hot study in The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia: Everything You Need to Know About Hot Peppers, with More Than 100 Recipes. From detailed descriptions of chile peppers found around the world to chile history, from folklore about peppers to folk remedies that utilize them, and from directions for growing your own crop to dozens of intriguing chile-based recipes, DeWitt never stops enthusing, entertaining, and educating.
DeWitt, dubbed "The Pope of Peppers," traces the spread of the various members of the Capsicum family from their native South America. Carried throughout the world by traders expanding their routes, chile peppers have been a major influence on the cuisines of Africa, India (now by far the largest grower of chile peppers), and regions of China and Southeast Asia. They showed up in North America as early as colonial times (both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson cultivated chile peppers) but only came to exert a significant influence on mainstream American cuisine in the more culinary adventuresome last decade or two.
In The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia, DeWitt gives us dozens of luscious recipes utilizing peppers—Madagascar Hot Mango Salad, Nicaraguan Jalapeno Pork Salad, Callaloo and Crab Soup with Congo Pepper from Trinidad, and Tortilla Soup with Pasilla Chiles from Mexico, Colombian Coconut-Habanero Rice and Sichuan Fried Eggplant in Chile Sauce from China.
DeWitt's chile-based meat courses span the globe and the heat scale (all recipes are helpfully ranked as mild, medium, or hot) from mild Korean Chile Paste Barbecue made with beef to South African Hot Lamb Curry to incendiary Guyanese Garlic-Chile Pork. His poultry offerings include Moroccan Chicken Tajine with Cayenne, which is often served at wedding feasts, Jamaican Jerk Chicken Wings and Peruvian Garlic-Rocoto Chicken. Seafood selections include Brazilian Seafood in Spicy Ginger-Peanut Sauce, Peruvian Mixed Seafood Ceviche, Habanero Crispy Fish with Caramelized Onion Relish from Barbados and Crab-Stuffed Chiles from Mexico.
With The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia in hand, readers can make their own Homemade "Tabasco" Sauce, Habanero Sauce Belize-Style, or Classic Green Chile Sauce New Mexico-Style. They will also learn how to whip up a batch of Mango and Coconut Chile Chutney or Mole Coloradito Oaxaqueno, one of the seven classic moles of Oaxaca. For dessert, the choices include Pinon Pepper Brittle and Devilish Mousse.
In addition to their culinary uses, chile peppers have been used medicinally in various parts of the world for hundreds of years, to treat ailments as varied as skin and eye infections, colds and asthma, heart conditions, circulatory problems, stomach ailments, and arthritis.
Chile powder is commonly used to relieve general fever in Paraguay and malarial fevers in Costa Rica. A treatment for the flu in Peru is to consume large quantities of chiles with chicha, a corn beer, to induce sweating and break the fever. In India, a decoction of chile pods with opium used to be a cure for cholera. Since arthritis pain is commonly treated with capsaicin cream (made from the crystalline alkaloid that gives peppers their heat) today, it is not surprising that Hawaiians have long massaged areas sore from rheumatism with chile powder, while Bolivians mixed freshly ground rocoto chiles with bark to sooth afflicted areas of the body.
A tincture of chile pods is used to treat poor memory in Venezuela, cayenne in large doses is recommended to control delirium tremens in India, and a poultice of pepper leaves is applied as a headache remedy in the Philippines. Nightblindness is treated with a paprika tea in Hungary and mashed chile pods are used to treat earaches in Jamaica. A rub of macerated pods is applied to the neck to cure a sore throat in Cuba, while leaf or pod tea is gargled in Argentina and Honduras.
A fascinating cure for "mental sluggishness" comes from the American Amish community, who eat bell pepper seeds for nine days, starting with one and doubling the dosage each day until 256 are consumed. The point is, if you can remember how many to take, you're cured.
Chiles have also had cosmetic and behavioral uses over the; years. The Mayas used chile as a skincare aid. In Taiwan, a decoction of the stem and leaf is said to be an effective dye for jet-black hair, and chiles are reputedly a cure for baldness in the West Indies. In Latin American countries, chile powder is rubbed on children's thumbs to prevent sucking. Lazy and delinquent children of the Kallawaya Indians of the Andes are corrected by burning chiles and their seeds, which "makes them sneeze and forget their mischievousness."
The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia will make a welcome addition to any kitchen—from those of curious cooks looking to spice up their repertoire to those of dedicated "chileheads."
About the Author
Dave DeWitt is the author or coauthor of numerous books and articles about chiles, including the bestselling Whole Chile Pepper Book. The founder of the National Fiery Foods Show and cofounder of the Chile Institute, DeWitt was the editor in chief of Chile Pepper magazine for ten years before founding Fiery' Foods Magazine. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Page created 2005. Modified March 2007
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