This year Canadians will be on the hunt for heat, and that’s not just because we’re in the middle of a bitterly cold winter.
Hot, sweet and flavourful chilli peppers are appearing in a variety of menu items, spice blends and food products – from baked goods and confectionery to sauces and even beverages. Meanwhile, chefs continue to experiment with techniques like pickling or smoking the spicy and versatile vegetable.
According to McCormick Canada, consumers are enjoying an obsession with chilli peppers, for the heat they offer but also for the range of tastes they bring to authentic cultural dishes and sauces. The company identifies the mild and flavourful Mexican Guajillo chilli, the Chinese Tien Tsin hot Sichuan chilli and the fruity Peruvian yellow chilli aji Amarillo as top choices for adding flavour in 2014.
Last year’s sweet and salty combinations are also giving way to sweet and spicy. In its flavour forecast for 2014, Comax Flavors suggests “heat and fire” will join with “brisk sweet notes” in flavour combinations like sriracha chocolate, black pepper caramel, honey wasabi and habanero maple.
This trend toward spice comes just as an international team of researchers, including scientists at Seoul National University in Korea and the University of California, Davis, finishes sequencing the genome of the hot pepper, one of the largest genomes yet assembled (the genome for chilli peppers was completed by New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute last year). Now a $14.4-billion industry globally, hot peppers are the most widely grown spice crop in the world.
This new research offers scientists more information into the pepper’s pungency, its disease-resistance qualities and its medicinal merits. The research will also provide more insight into capsaicinoids – naturally occurring chemicals in hot peppers that produce their heat – and their use in pain relief for arthritis, tumour growth for certain cancers, appetite suppression and weight loss. Chili peppers have also been known to fight inflammation, offer cardiovascular benefits and boost immunity.
So if the cold outside is getting you down, think about adding some spice to your life in 2014.