Chillies and capsicums Quality requirements

Chillies and capsicums Quality requirements
by Urban Garden

The numerous varieties of Capsicum species traded in the dried form are grown in many areas and differ considerably in the size, shape and pungency of the fruit; and have been ascribed various botanical classifications and vernacular names.

Traditionally, the smaller-fruited, more pungent types have been known as chillies while the somewhat larger, mildly to moderately pungent types have been known as capsicums. The former type are valued principally for their high pungency and the latter for their colour in combination with pungency.

In commerce, however, the words ‘chillies’ and ‘capsicums’ are often used interchangeably and indiscriminately and this can lead to confusion over the characteristics of the material in question. For example, Japanese Santakas and Nigerian Funtuas possess a moderate degree of pungency associated with capsicums but in the trade they are frequently described as chillies.

In an attempt to resolve the nomenclature problem, a British Standard Specification recommend a classification system for chillies and capsicums on the basis of pungency and size. However, it should be noted that the British Standard, while giving precise limits on size of fruits, does not specify pungency levels in terms of capsaicin content and this is a shortcoming of the system.

The species, cultivar or strain grown has the dominant influence on the important quality determinant properties of pungency, initial colour and colour retention. However, the harvesting, drying and handling methods used for chillies and capsicums are also significant and influence these quality characteristics.

In the southern United States, smallholders sun-dry chillies and capsicums by spreading the fruits on drying racks, on roofs and even on the ground, or they may be tied together in strings, weighing 5-12 kg and hung on the walls of houses, fences and even clothes lines. This method of drying may take several weeks (Lantz, 1946). The traditional methods of harvesting and sun-drying chillies and capsicums outlined above have many disadvantages, not least in regard to product quality. Poor handling of the fruits prior to drying can result in bruising or splitting. Bruising shows up as discoloured spots on the pods, and splitting leads to an excessive amount of loose seeds in a consignment; there is a considerable loss in weight if the dried fruits are sold without their seeds.

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