Pimiento Pepper

Pimiento Pepper - Botany And History

The pimiento is a distinct variety of Capsicum which is generally known for its purportedly 'sweet' taste which is in stark contrast to other, 'hotter' varieties of Capsicum. While other chili peppers are usually lumped up with the rest of the Capsicum varieties, pimiento is distinct in that it is culturally unique, having been employed primarily as a foodstuff and secondarily, as a medicinal supplement well outside the range of other Capsicum varietals. Pimiento is chiefly known for its mild flavour and pale colouration, with the peppers bordering between pale orange, red-orange, to golden, and even bright yellow. In spite of this common assumption, this varietal of pepper which produces large, often heart-shaped chillies, possess a wide range of flavour 'intensities' in spite of being within the lowest range of the Scoville 'hotness' rating.

The pimiento pepper is a small shrub-like varietal that grows upwards of five to six feet in length if left untended, and is replete with small or moderately sized, semi-glossy to matte leaves, and a pale-pink to ivory-white inflorescence. The heart-shaped fruits of the plant itself measure some three to four inches in length and around three inches or less in width, and are distinctive for its slightly elongated, yet generally oblong shape. Contrary to popular belief, pimiento peppers can be hot, with some varietals expressly grown for their spiciness, although the majority do tend to be milder and veer towards a sweeter or spicy-sweet taste, making it ideal for a number of different culinary applications which require a 'kick' but that does not demand an overpowering taste. Pimiento peppers are more popular as a foodstuff than they are as a medicine, although traditionally, it has a long history of medicinal usage in specific areas throughout Europe, particularly in Spain (and its subsequent colonies), Portugal, Italy, and some parts of the Mediterranean. Today, pimiento peppers are chiefly employed as an integral ingredient in a number of foodstuffs, as a spice in its own right, and fairly recently as a food supplement. The traditional medicinal applications of pimiento are oftentimes lumped with that of the rest of its species, however its employment is more distinct in that it is far more palatable (tolerable would be more apt in some cases) due to its distinctly less spicy nature. [1] The employment of pimiento as a medicine most often involves its usage as a food supplement, although some medicinal benefits are believed to be obtainable from mere consumption of it in the diverse number of foodstuffs which contain it. As with any variety of capsicum, other applications (i. e. topical) are also possible, albeit only rarely conducted.

Pimiento Pepper - Herbal Uses

Pimiento is a very popular variety of pepper in Europe, although it's most prolific usage comes from Spain and the following areas that it has influenced (i. e. Mexico, the Philippine Islands), as the majority of the cuisine of these places oftentimes incorporate pimiento as a flavouring agent. These spicy-sweet peppers are also most well-known for being an integral addition to olives dipped in oil - a very popular aperitif and snack food not only in Spain and Italy, but also throughout the majority of the Mediterranean, and, thanks to delis and specialty food stores, much of the Western, and a significant area of the Eastern world. Pimientos are generally employed as a stuffing for Spanish green olives, replacing the pit which is more often removed for the sake of convenience. The practice of stuffing olives with pimientos dates back to circa the 1700s, (with possibly even earlier origins). This practice is said to compliment the often strong taste of the olives, creating a body to the snack that prevents one from feeling sick due to overconsumption. Originally, pimientos were cut by hand and slowly applied into the pitted center before the whole was soaked in olive oil and other flavourful spices. This traditional process tended to be very labour-intensive, and so with the advent of modern technology, cut pimientos were often inserted into the olive via a hydraulic 'gun' during the pitting process, thereby accomplishing two purposes simultaneously. Other modern alternatives include pureeing the peppers and creating a slurry with a binding compound (the binding compound generally being made of guar gum or sodium alginate), although both binding compounds may slightly alter the taste of the foodstuff. Furthermore, with the growing concern for nut-based allergies, guar has become a secondary choice in favour of the more hypoallergenic sodium alginate. [2]

Pimientos are also dried and minced, or otherwise ground and employed as a general culinary spice and condiment, often used as an alternative to Spanish paprika. In Mexico and the majority of Spanish-influenced countries, pimiento is the pepper of choice for a variety of different foodstuffs, although because of its somewhat mild nature it is more favoured for salads, vegetable-based dishes, some varieties of seafood, and even as a complimentary spice to sweet fruits. Stronger varietals of pimiento are employed as seasoning for heartier meat-based dishes, although it's most popular employment is as an integral ingredient for pimiento cheese - a type of cheese which either comprises of processed cheese mixed with pimiento, or otherwise whole white cheese or some other semi-strong flavoured cheese mixed with fresh or dried finely diced pimiento peppers. [3] Pimientos are also an integral ingredient in pimiento loaf - a processed meat product which incorporates significant amounts of the diced or chopped pepper into the cold cut meat. Both products are extremely popular in Mexico, Spain, and the Philippines. Its popularity is not limited to former Hispanic colonies however, as anywhere with a large Hispanic population is bound to have at least of those two specific foodstuffs. It is extremely well-loved in the Southern United States, where it is referred to as the 'caviar of the South'. Another very popular means of serving pimientos is as a pickle meant to be eaten as an accompaniment to meat-based dishes or otherwise employed as a condiment for an assortment of light to hearty foods. It generally comes in two distinct styles - vinegar-based pickled pimientos, and oil-based pickled pimientos. In areas where pickled sardines and its ilk are highly popular, pimientos are often employed in lieu of cayenne pepper or Spanish paprika, although the resulting pickles are often of a milder nature than the usual fare.

When employed medicinally, pimiento invariably possesses all of the medicinal properties of its genus, albeit due to its somewhat milder nature, it is more readily tolerated by the human palate. Chili peppers are technically 'spicy' or 'hot' due to the presence of the chemical compound capsaicin, which is also the primary therapeutic compound to which the sundry medicinal benefits of chili peppers are ascribed to. The capsaicin is often found in concentrated amounts within the pith and seeds of a chili pepper, which are oftentimes removed when a pepper is consumed, or otherwise extracted to create supplements that contain the compound. Because pimientos are milder than most chilies in general, the pith and seeds of the pepper are oftentimes left intact, thus increasing the amount of capsaicin one consumes upon intake. This tolerability allows pimientos to be created into highly potent food supplements which are often sold as anti-carcinogenic, cardio-tonic, and antioxidant food supplements. Aside from its well-known anti-carcinogenic properties, pimientos, like all chili pepper varieties, are also consumed as a remedy for general aches and pains. When used as a food supplement, it can help to provide relief for osteoarthritis, rheumatism, arthritis, and gout. Taken daily, in supplement form or in its raw state, often incorporated into foodstuffs or otherwise consumed as-is, it is said to provide excellent therapeutic benefits for the treatment and management of inflammatory bowel diseases and stomach ulcers, especially if combined with foods that contain mucilage or that are high in protein, like avocadoes and okra. [4] Most modern supplements which contain pimiento are generally geared towards dieters, as the capsaicin found in the peppers are believed to help enhance the body's metabolic rate and improve its capacity to burn fat and use stored fats as fuel. [5]

Dried pimiento peppers may be infused alongside ginger root, turmeric root, and cinnamon as a tisane for the relief of arthritis, rheumatism, lumbago, and (rarely) diabetic neuropathy; this mixture, if decocted and employed as a wash, may also provide significant relief for chilblains and numb or cold extremities by encouraging blood flow and improving the overall circulation of skin. [6] This decoction may even be employed as a hair rinse to help increase blood flow to the scalp, helping to improve hair thickness and texture, and even possibly allay the progression of some types of alopecia. [7] Decoctions of pimiento, when employed topically, may even help to allay some types of fungal infections, although an attempt at universal cure is somewhat unlikely and ill-advised due to the potential allergic properties that capsaicin possesses. When allowed to infuse in one's choice of base oil, it can be employed as a general topical analgesic and as a rubifacient. Used dry, and combined with a binder such as honey, guar gum, cornstarch, or some other 'sticky' material, it can be employed as a pain-relieving plaster (especially if combined with other analgesic herbs or spices), generally used for the relief of swelling usually associated with rheumatism or arthritis, but that is applicable for other applications as well.

The most potent benefits which can be obtain from pimientos however are not in the extracted forms of its active chemical compound (and in the market today, everything from tinctures to aquaeous extracts, and even plasters made from, or containing pimiento or some other type of chili pepper have been made available), but in its regular employment and consumption as a foodstuff in its own right, or as a culinary spice and condiment. When combined with other therapeutic spices such as turmeric or ginger root used for cooking, the slew of health benefits that can be derived from its synergistic combination is priceless and far more superior to any extracted or synthesised variant, especially since fresh pimientos (and subsequently, all chilies) possess the highest amounts of beneficial antioxidants and analgesic compounds compared to dried or processed ones. Foodstuffs containing pimiento, when consumed during the onset of a cold or flu, or even during the height of an illness is said to effectively combat the symptoms of such illnesses and hasten healing. [8] While a similar benefit can be obtained from simply partaking of dried encapsulated pimientos or other such available extracts, the fresh boost of flavonoids and anthocyanins from whole pimientos are undoubtedly superior to any store-bought extracted compound. Aside from its overall therapeutic benefits, raw or whole pimientos generally provide a far more potent immuno-boosting benefit that can be drastically reduced when opting for processed supplements.

Pimiento Pepper - Esoteric Uses

As with all chili varieties, the esoteric usage of pimiento is similar to that of the magickal properties of cayenne pepper and paprika, although the mention and employment of pimiento as a magickal spice is at best, rare. One of the most popular esoteric properties of pimiento is in its reputed aphrodisiac quality - a trait that it shares with all of its relatives. Like the rest of the Capsicum family, pimiento is often used as a de-hexing spice, as it is believed to possess protective properties. Carried around in one's person, usually inside a pocket or otherwise incased in a medicine pouch, it is believed that the herb grants the bearer strength, fortitude, courage, and protection against the evil eye. [9] One of the most popular amuletic forms wherein pimiento (and nearly all sizeable chilies) are employed is called a rista - a garland of peppers which are either worn as a necklace or otherwise hung above rafters, upon doorposts, or outside of windows, and even within the kitchen itself, to help protect a household and its inhabitants from evil. [9]

Dried pimientos, and subsequently, the powder that can be derived from the dried peppers, have also been employed as a type of incense (often combined with garlic and cloves), generally used by some traditional healers (and even some New Age healers) for exorcism and banishing. This very pungent and highly uncomfortable incense is also believed to rid an area of vermin - a not too far-fetched idea, as the scent of burning chili is intolerable to pests both insect and mammalian pests. The power, believed to be sacred to the god Mars by some proponents of the New Age, is also employed as a protective substance, often sprinkled around the perimeter of homesteads, or on the threshold of houses to help prevent negative energy or evil entities from entering the home.

In both traditional and neo-shamanic practices, pimientos may be employed in lieu of other chili pepper varieties for a number of different purposes. Aside from its use as a protective spice, pimientos may be incorporated into any number of hallucinogenic beverages as a means to intensify the visions which are induced by such compounds (primarily due to its capacity to improve and increase blood-flow). Traditional Mayan and Aztec shamanism may have employed pimientos as a snuff combined with entheogens, akin to their employment of other chili varieties, as a means to intensify the effects of the hallucinatory drugs. While pimiento itself does not possess any hallucinogenic property whatsoever, when combined with substances that are ingested or that is meant to be absorbed through the mucosa, the subsequent absorption rate and synthesis of such compounds are drastically intensified thanks to the presence of capsicum. [9]

Pimiento Pepper - Contraindications And Safety

Pimiento is generally considered safe even if consumed in large quantities for prolonged periods of time, and because of its milder nature, it is more tolerated that most types of chilies. However, excessive consumption of pimiento may result in mild to moderate stomach upset. As a general safety rule, pregnant women are advised to limit their intake of pimiento-based supplements and foodstuffs which may contain pimiento. The topical use of remedies which contain pimientos may cause severe allergic reactions to individuals with very sensitive skin, so a skin-test prior to usage and moderate employment (if not thorough abstinence) of such remedies is advised. Furthermore, individuals who are under blood-thinning medication, or individuals who suffer from sudden panic attacks are advised to limit their intake of pimientos and other chili products to a minimum.

Pimiento Pepper - Other Names, Past and Present

Chinese: hujiao
Japanese: kosho
Korean: huchu
Hindi: kali mirca
French: poivre
Italian: pepe
Spanish: pimiento / pimentao (loan-word from Portuguese)
Portuguese: pimento / pimentao / malagueta
English: pimiento (adopted) / pimento (adopted) / cherry pepper
Latin (esoteric): piperis
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Capsicum annuum


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[8] http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=29


Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt.
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