Pili pili: Swahili; Piment: French

Chilies are an African superfood and an excellent ingredient for spicing up a meal (www.africanepicure.com)

Red chilies ripening on the bush. (Flickr: victorcamilo)

Chili pepper (also called hot pepper) is another member of the nightshade family, Capsicum, along with tomatoes, eggplants and sweet peppers. They are not indigenous to Africa, but came to Africa with Portuguese colonizers in the 16th century or so and quickly made itself indispensable in many areas of African cooking. In many West Africa countries, pepper sauce is a must on every table and pepper soup is a beloved daily favorite.

It’s a good thing, too, because chili peppers are another superfood and especially nutritious when they’re ripe and red. (Unripe chilies are green or yellow.) They’re full of A, B and C vitamins, and do all kinds of good things for the body.

The capsacin in chili peppers fights inflammation, and the the hotter the chili, the better. Topical applications of capsacin can help with arthritis and pain, and chili can be also used directly on the skin to help with psoriasis, although it does burn a bit! Red chili peppers are wonderful for the heart and cardiovascular health, and full of antioxidants. They may even help to protect against cancer and diabetes, although do be careful because eating too many of them isn’t good for your stomach!

Capsacin lives in the seeds and white pithy parts of the chili pepper, which some people prefer to remove because that’s where all the heat is.

The other benefit you might have noticed from chili peppers is that they clear mucus congestion. You likely know this already, since eating too much chili is something that happens to all of us. Your eyes burn and tear up, your throat and mouth feel hot and as if they’re burning. The capsacin in the chili peppers dissolves mucus in the body, which is a good thing.

For recipes that use and feature the noble, feisty chili pepper, please visit:

Chili and Hot Pepper Recipes

For more about how to use local vegetables in your African kitchen, check out:

Cooking with African Vegetables
About African Vegetables