When it comes to chili peppers, the cayenne pepper is one of the most popular in the western hemisphere! This spicy pepper is a fantastic addition to everything from soups and chili to tacos, rubs, marinades, and sauces.
Why all the hype? Read on to learn everything from what it looks and tastes like to its humble origins and how to grow it in your basement!
Why all the hype? Read on to learn everything from what it looks and tastes like to its humble origins and how to grow it in your backyard!
Want to grow this pepper in your backyard? Check Availability.
Why Choose the Cayenne Pepper?
This pepper was first documented as growing 7000 years ago in Mexico. Since then, it’s migrated to South America, East Africa, and even the U.S. It is particularly abundant around the Cayenne River in French Guiana, where its name originated.
This pepper is part of the nightshade family and is related to bell peppers and jalapeno peppers. While it is a part of the chili pepper family, it’s usually sold as a powder or dried flakes for culinary use. Utilizing the pepper in this form makes it readily available to you year-round.
The easiest place to find it is in its powder or flake form, sold at most markets and grocery stores. Finding them as full peppers might be a bit more challenging. If you’re planning to cook with the actual pepper, it’s best to grow it yourself.
Characteristics of the Cayenne Pepper
This pepper looks similar to many other chili peppers you might be familiar with. However, these tend to be longer and skinnier, tapering into a curved tip with wrinkled skin.
These peppers average 2-5 inches in length and are mature when they reach a bright red color.
This particular pepper has more of a fruity flavor when compared to others. While other chili peppers lean toward an earthy or smoky flavor, this pepper is definitely fiery!
Turn Up the Heat!
How hot is this pepper? In terms of Scoville Heat Units (SHU), the cayenne pepper ranges between 30,000 to 50,000 SHUs. This pepper is considerably hotter, with the jalapeno coming in at only 5000 SHUs!
These peppers are at their hottest when they fully mature, and the pepper is bright red. If you’re hoping for something with a little less spice, pick it while it’s still green.
Staying Healthy with the Cayenne Pepper!
When it comes to cooking with cayenne pepper, there are a number of health benefits that make it worth your while!
This pepper has been used for hundreds of years in medicine, especially among the native people of Mexico. Ailments treated with the cayenne pepper range from toothaches and earaches to treating arthritis. It has even been used as an insect repellant!
Cayenne peppers are packed with vitamins C, A, B6, and K. They help protect against inflammation, reduce pain, and can help speed up the metabolism. This results in a natural path to weight loss, all while eating your favorite spicy foods!
These peppers have lots of antioxidants which can slow down the damage done to cells from free radicals. Antioxidants also help fight heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. In addition, antioxidants have been found to help with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Cayenne peppers are also effective in alleviating congestion and improving circulation. This is due to the capsaicin, the part of the pepper that creates the heat. It can help open airways and increase blood flow!
The cayenne pepper helps to improve digestion. It increases gastric juices and enzyme production, which helps break down food. This reduces the risk of heartburn. There’s also evidence of a boost of good bacteria in the gut, creating a healthier microbiome.
Note: Capsaicin can cause irritation for those who have pre-existing digestive issues such as GERD or IBS. In this case, this pepper would not help ease digestive discomfort.
Cooking with the Cayenne Pepper
Are you ready to add cayenne pepper to your diet? Start with these recipes to add a kick to your menu!
This Fettuccine with Sweet Pepper-Cayenne Sauce is perfect for a pasta lover looking for some added heat! Add some grilled chicken on top and garlic bread on the side to make it a meal!
What better way to use this pepper than in a warm bowl of chili? Try this Spicy Slow-Cooked Chili and see if you can handle the heat. Don’t forget the cornbread!
Time to Grow your Own!
Growing your cayenne pepper is similar to growing any other pepper variant. Plan to grow your peppers in a spot with lots of sun. They don’t respond well to overly hot or cold weather. Aim to transplant your seedlings indoors when the temperature remains below 60 degrees.
As with other peppers, plant your seedlings 18-24 inches apart. Be sure the soil stays nice and moist, but do not overwater. Just as a plant won’t thrive in overly dry soil, these peppers also won’t appreciate overly saturated soil.
The plants will grow between 2-4 feet in height. Harvesting can occur after 70-80 days. Your plant will produce peppers throughout the season until the first frost of fall.
Best Places to Purchase your Seeds
There are several places you can purchase your seeds. Stop by your local nursery for a selection of seeds to choose from. Or try these Long Slim Cayenne Pepper Seeds to begin growing these yummy chili peppers in your own backyard!
Cayenne Peppers: The Perfect Pick
That wraps up everything you need to know about the cayenne pepper!
Are you ready to incorporate a little more heat into your meals? Try adding a dash or two of the powder form to your favorite dish for an extra kick of flavor!
Looking to grow your own cayenne peppers? Visit our article on How to Plant Peppers and The Complete Seed Starting Guide for answers to all your questions.