June 03rd 2016
In Canada, the king of spices is black pepper. However, on a global basis, another hot spice – red pepper – surpasses black pepper tenfold, with an estimated worldwide production of 6 billion pounds! By far, it is the most widely consumed spice in the world.
There are over 200 varieties of red pepper, collectively known as capsicums. They are prized for the colour, flavour and heat they bring to a wide range of foods. Generally speaking, the smaller the size of the pepper, the hotter it will be. Larger pepper varieties, such as paprika, are grown for colour and minimal heat, while smaller peppers, such as chiles and cayenne, deliver explosive heat. Most red pepper varieties, like Mexican chiles, are in the middle heat range, which is still plenty hot for the average Canadian palate.
Indigenous to the Caribbean and Latin America, red pepper was discovered by Christopher Columbus on his journey to find a quick passage to the East Indies to source spices such as black pepper, ginger and turmeric. Seeds from red pepper plants were brought back to Europe and eventually found their way to India, where it became the most prevalent spice. Today, with an annual production of over two billion pounds a year, India remains the largest producer and consumer of red pepper.