Ever been fascinated by those long, thin, red or green peppers in your grocery store? Been tempted to add them to your cooking repertoire, but not sure how? Cayenne peppers are among the hottest peppers, and you can use them in a variety of dishes and cuisines. Originating from warm-climate countries, these peppers pair especially well with dishes from these regions.
For thousands of years, cayenne pepper was grown throughout the West Indies and Central and South America and became a staple in the cuisines from these regions. However, cayenne pepper is now grown throughout the world, including in North America and Europe. You can grow it indoors or outdoors if your growing season is long enough and the temperatures are warm enough. If you are trying to grow cayenne peppers indoors, use a grow light to ensure enough light, especially during the winter months when less natural light is available.
Traditionally, cayenne pepper was most commonly associated with Mexican and Latin American cuisines, where it can be used fresh or dried, in flakes or as a powder. Cayenne pepper is now also used in a wide range of Asian dishes and is sometimes included as a vital spice in traditional barbecue from the Southern United States.
Cayenne peppers, like all pepper plants are a warm weather vegetable. Slow growing, they require warm temperatures during the days and nights as well as well draining soil and plenty of sunlight. You can grow cayenne peppers indoors as well if they receive sufficient sunlight, and the plants can do fairly well in pots, so you can always test your green thumb indoors first.
Use cayenne peppers as part of a marinade, stir-fry, stew, sauce or just as a colorful garnish. Sprinkling chopped cayenne peppers onto a finished dish reduces the amount of overall heat. Using cayenne powder means you can have a steady supply of cayenne available year-round that is easily accessible. Choosing a high-quality cayenne pepper often means you need to use less powder for the same amount of heat, so use it sparingly, as just a little bit too much can make the difference between pleasantly spicy and unbearably hot.
Isabelle Hannigan has been a professional writer since 2004, with articles appearing in nationally distributed newspapers such as "The National Post." She is a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist, and has worked for the University of Guelph and Athlete's World. Hannigan holds a B.S. in biochemistry from McMaster University and an M.S. in nutritional sciences from the University of Guelph.