The African bird’s eye chili, also known as the peri-peri pepper. Right, so that would be African. Yes, but in an indirect manner. Its metaphorical roots go all the way back to South America, which is where the first chilies were ever grown. The chili in Africa may have been an adopted child, but over many centuries, it came to have its own unique identity. This is how it evolved into an exclusively African chili.
Peri-peri may be spelled with a hyphen, as a single word, or in other ways, such as piri-piri, piripiri, or pili pili. It is a variety of the malagueta pepper’s Capsicum frutescens. Portuguese explorers first developed it in their former colonies in Southern Africa, particularly in Mozambique and the South African borderlands, before spreading to other Portuguese territories..
The Etymology of Peri-Peri Pepper
“Pepper” is the Swahili word for pili pili. Other romanizations, derived from different word pronunciations in various Bantu-speaking regions of Africa, include pili pili in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and peri peri in Malawi. Some African nations that speak Portuguese, particularly those in the Mozambican community, also use the spelling peri peri for this loanword. Although it is frequently spelled peri-peri in English, such as when referring to a type of chili sauce from Africa, it is almost always spelled piri-piri in Portuguese.
The word “pepper” is given as the ultimate origin in the Ronga language of southern Mozambique, where Portuguese explorers created the homonymous cultivar from malagueta pepper. Peri-peri is listed in the Oxford Dictionary of English as a foreign word that means “a very hot sauce made with red chilli peppers.”
The Peri-Peri Pepper Characteristics
Typically very bushy, plants reach a height of 45–120 cm (18–47 in) and have leaves that are 1.3–1.5 cm (1–2–9–16 in) wide and 4–7 cm (1+12–3 in) long. The fruits can be up to 2-3 cm (3-1+1 in) long and are typically tapered to a blunt point. Green when immature, bright red or purple when mature. The Scoville heat index of some Bird’s eye chili varieties can reach 175,000.
The Cultivation of Peri-Peri Pepper
Peri-peri peppers are related to plants that originated in the Americas, like all chili peppers, but they have grown naturally in Africa for many years before being commercially grown in Zambia, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Rwanda. Malawi, Zambia, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Portugal are the main growing regions for it. It is grown for use in the pharmaceutical and commercial food processing industries. Growing peri-peri requires a lot of labor.
The Peri-Peri Sauce
The sauce, which is made from peri-peri chilis and used as a seasoning or marinade, was first produced by the Portuguese in Southern Africa, though it is still debatable whether they did so in Mozambique or Angola. The success of the South African restaurant chain Nando’s has made the sauce popular outside of Portugal and the Southern African region where it was originally created, including Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, and South Africa.
The main ingredients in recipes are chili and garlic with an oily or acidic base, though variations exist between regions and even within the same region depending on the intended use. Salt, whisky, citrus peel, onion, pepper, bay leaves, paprika, pimiento, basil, oregano, and tarragon are additional ingredients that are frequently used.
Easy To Grow Peri-Peri
When ripe and red, peri-peri fruit is tiny and between one and two inches long. The bush that produces it can be small and grown indoors or in containers. The sprout emerges from the soil after a couple of weeks, its leaves initially very dark and later turning medium green. A potted peri-peri will require at least a 10-inch pot in order to bloom. When flowers are fully opened, gently shaking the plant encourages self-pollination. Flowers start out pointing downward, and as the fruit grows, it gradually turns more and more upward.
Where Peri-Peri Stands Among Hot Peppers
Even though this pepper has a Scoville rating of 175,000, it is not considered to be “habanero-hot.” In contrast, bell peppers and banana peppers have a Scoville rating between 100 and 900, while the spiciest peppers have a scorching 2,000,000 Scoville units. The deceptive little peri-peri is definitely in the top third of the Scoville scale, but when balanced well in a dish, the heat only becomes noticeable at the very end of your mouthful, not throughout. This makes it preferable for many who want the experience of a true hot pepper without the tastebud blowout.
Traditional Cooking Using Peri-Peri Pepper
The Peri-Peri is frequently used in marinades in African and Portuguese cultures. These marinades typically contain peri-peri, onion, garlic, black pepper, salt, lemon zest and/or juice, basil, bay leaf, tarragon, oregano, pimento, and paprika, among other ingredients. For the salt ingredient, you might want to know the different types of salt for more options and better taste for your dish. Chicken is by far peri-most peri’s well-liked food partner, though it has been suggested that daring explorers may even enjoy it in ice cream! Peri-peri peppers have caught the attention of chefs everywhere. Even its flavor has been described as “light, fresh, and herbal!” “I’m assuming that these are higher Scoville ranked connoisseurs. Try peri-peri if you prefer a hotter pepper but one that doesn’t make you think of “scorched earth”.
What Makes Peri-Peri Special?
This is not a macho, brash chili with lots of muscle and heat. Much softer in flavor is the peri-peri pepper. Along with its lengthy burn, it has a rich, smoked undertow that lingers subtly and tastes somewhat like char-baked peaches. And it has a lot of that. Its Scoville heat rating is between the cayenne (30,000 to 50,000 SHU) and the habanero (50,000 to 100,000 SHU) (100,000 to 350,000). The peri-peri pepper’s unique flavor combination and high level of spiciness are what make it such a fantastic culinary chili. It makes a tasty basting sauce when combined with a little oil, lemon, salt, and garlic for cooking meats and vegetables. It tastes fantastic in tomato and onion salsa. Also, it dries quickly. This makes it perfect as the base powder for a dry pre-cooking rub as well as a strikingly fiery, sprinkled condiment. Also, if you want a little bit of spice, you can add a little to your bulgar wheat.
The peri-close peri’s resemblance to the widely popular tabasco chili, with which it shares a South American “parent,” Capsicum frutescens, undoubtedly contributes to its saucy flavor. They also grow untamed throughout Africa, particularly when the seeds are dispersed widely in the droppings of birds that consume chilies. They are also raised on farms for profit. For small-scale farmers in Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, peri-peri peppers are a welcome cash crop.