This colorful, ground chili pepper will turn up the heat and color in your cooking. Use it in favorite ethnic recipes, or sprinkle it on at the table whenever a dish needs extra zip.
Botanical name: Capsicum annuum L. var. annuum, Capsicum annuum
The term "cayenne" is often used to refer to any ground pepper, but true cayenne (which takes its name from the French Guinea city of Cayenne) is actually a particular type of chili pepper--about four to 12 inches long, thin, and very pungent.
Like other chili peppers, cayenne belongs to the genus Capsicum, a member of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family. Cayenne--and most other hot and sweet peppers grown in the U.S.--is Capsicum annuum, while Capsicum frutescens produces the small, thin-skinned pepper from which Tabasco sauce is made. The name capsicum may have been derived from the Latin capsa for "box" (the pepper is mostly a hollow, box-like fruit), or the Greek kapto, "to bite."
Technically, chili peppers are a fruit; once dried they are correctly considered a spice.
An annual, herbaceous plant, the personality of Capsicum annuum depends a great deal on the neighborhood in which it grows up. A hot, dry environment, for example, produces the hottest chilies, while milder ones are produced in cooler, wetter climates. Even the same variety of pepper will differ, depending upon its locale.
Cayenne adds color and flavor to Southwestern salsas, Indian chutneys, Thai curries, Mexican enchiladas, Chinese stir-fries, Texan chili con carnes, Cajun hot sauce, and many other recipes. Cayenne provides an easy way to perk up stir-fries, soups, stews, grain, meat or vegetable recipes--just about any savory dish.
If you like kick in your recipes, you'll find cayenne indispensable. A few tips:
Chili peppers can be irritating to eyes and skin. Use caution when handling.