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top-red-hot-chili-peppersIn anticipation of Cinco de Mayo in a few weeks, let’s educate ourselves more about the various chili peppers used in Mexican food.

Chili peppers are frequently divided into three distinct groupings: bell peppers, sweet peppers, and hot peppers.

Hot Chili Pepper Scoville Scale

Of the hot chili peppers, the substance primarily bringing the heat or intensity is called capsaicin.  Capsaicin not only heats up peppers, but it also is the prime ingredient in pepper spray, which is currently used for self-defense.  Scientists have actually measured the heat of chile peppers using what is called a Scoville heat unit. In 2011, the Guinness Book of Records awarded the title of world hottest chile pepper to the Trinidad Butch T pepper when it tested 1,463,700 SHU (SHU = Scoville heat units), but in February of 2012, the Moruga Scorpion pepper unseated the reining champion to claim the world’s hottest title with a Scoville heat unit rating of 2,009,231 SHU. Now that’s a hot pepper!

Chile peppers are utilized in foodstuffs in a variety of ways. Chilies can be used fresh, dried, pickled, ground, or whole. Below find a sampling of peppers and their uses.

Types of Chili Peppers

Czechoslovakian Black: These peppers are colored so darkly green; they almost appear black before they ripen to a beautiful red color. It is mildly hot and is shaped somewhat like a jalapeno.

Espanola Ristra Pepper: This medium hot, thin-walled long pepper matures to a bright fire engine red. It air dries quickly and is used for decorative stringing and when ground, is also as an excellent deep-flavored powder.

Fresno: These Mexican peppers are hot and are used primarily in salsas. Although Fresnos are bright red when ripe, they are used primarily when yellowish-green to green for seasonings, sauces and pickling.

Habanero: These highly aromatic, bright orange, lantern-shaped chilies are almost 200 times hotter than jalapeno peppers. Habaneros are classic ingredients in Caribbean and South American barbeque meat marinades, especially those that have names such as “Hellfire.”

Hungarian Hot Wax: These hot peppers are usually 4-6 inches long and hollow. They are commonly used in their immature yellow state because in their fully ripened red stage, Hungarian hot wax peppers are almost too hot to eat. They can be used in salads, vegetable dishes and stews, stuffed, fried and pickled.

Jalapeno: These are very versatile and well-known peppers. The 3 inch, thick hot cone shaped chilies can be eaten either green or the hotter stage of red. Jalapenos are used in salsas, dips, hot pepper jellies, or pickled.

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