The oleoresins

by Will Wright

This is the most important of the three products. While accounts of its commercial production are understandably scarce. According to Mathew et al. (1971), who studied the preparation of the production of oleoresin from African, Indian, and Japanese chillies, the chillies are usually supplied with stalks attached, and these have to be removed, to facilitate grinding and to avoid the undesirable green colour of chlorophyll in the final product.

Commercial capsicum oleoresins are usually supplied in pungency ratings ranging from between 500 000 and 1 800 000 Scoville.units (approximately 3.9-14 per cent capsaicin, w/w) with colour values, expressed on the ASTA (American Spice Trade Association) scale, of 3 500 units maximum and 400 units maximum in decolorized types. Replacement strengths of 1 kg of 500 000 Scoville unit oleoresin for 20 kg of good-quality cayenne have been claimed by manufacturers.

Oleoresin red pepper is obtained from the longer, moderately pungent capsicums, as used in the production of red pepper. Commercial red pepper oleoresins are usually supplied in pungency ratings ranging from between 80 000 and 500 000 Scoville units (approximately 0.6-3.9 per cent capsaicin, wAv) and in Manufacturers have made claims that 1 kg of 200 000 Scoville units oleoresin will replace 10 kg of good-quality red pepper.

It is possible to retard this rancidity with a suitable antioxidant, but for pharmaceutical purposes the fixed oil should be removed by, for example, repeated extraction with cold ethanol, in which the fixed oil has little solubility. The colour is much reduced but the capsaicin is concentrated, and the commercial value of the oleoresin is increased accordingly.

Reports of yield values are meagre, but Naves (1974) stated that chillies, extracted with dichloroethane, gave 8.7-16.5 per cent of the oleoresin, according to quality. While oleoresin capsicum from African chillies is used in many commercial food products where only pungency is desired, one of the most widely used oleoresins is that obtained from the somewhat milder capsicums which enter into the formulation of red pepper, providing both pungency and colour.

The Essential Oil Association of America has a standard which gives as its origin the dried fruit of Capsicum annuum L. var. longum Sendt., known in commerce as Louisiana Long Pepper, or the hybrid pepper known as the Louisiana Sport Pepper, both US domestic peppers, but red pepper is described as being derived from any species of Capsicum. The commer- cial oleoresin originates from capsicums grown in the United States, Japan, India, Turkey, Mexico, Ethiopia or other African countries.

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