Hot Portugal Chile Peppers
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Hot Portugal pepper plants can grow up to four feet tall and are thick with green foliage, protecting the peppers from sun scald. The spicy Portugal peppers are medium-long, red chile peppers that taper to a point. They mature from dark green to bright, lipstick red and grow to an average of 6 inches long and measure one and a half inches at the shoulders. The pointed chile peppers have thin walls and may curve slightly or have the occasional wrinkle. Hot Portugal peppers are rated at 5,000 to 30,000 Scoville Heat units, roughly two to 3 times hotter than a jalapeno pepper. Beneath the spiciness of the capsaicin (the compound responsible for the heat) is a hint of sweetness. The peppers have a crunchy texture and a lingering heat.
Hot Portugal peppers have a short season and are available in the last month of summer and through the first month of fall.
Hot Portugal peppers are an early season variety of Capsicum annuum, the botanical classification that includes bell peppers, sweet peppers and chile peppers. The appearance of the Hot Portugal pepper is a bit deceiving, as it looks a lot like the sweeter, Jimmy Nardello’s peppers. Hot Portugal peppers are typically left to ripen on the plant and are harvested when red. They pack a decent amount of heat and have measured as high as 50,000 Scoville Heat Units.
Hot Portugal peppers, like all members of Capsicum annuum, contain high amounts of vitamin C, A and B-complex vitamins. They are loaded with antioxidants and minerals like potassium, iron and folate. All spicy peppers contain capsaicin, a compound that acts as an irritant to the soft tissues in the mouth, creating a burning sensation. This compound also acts as an anti-inflammatory, helpful in creams and supplements for those with arthritis. It is also a cancer-fighting compound, and researchers are studying the effects of capsaicin on inhibiting tumor cell growth.
Hot Portugal peppers are spicy, so just a portion or the whole pepper can be used. It is best when used fresh and added to soups or stews or added to stir-fry for some extra heat. Hot Portugal peppers also dry well, and can be crushed to make red chile flakes. Use care when handling the Hot Portugal peppers, the capsaicin in the ribs and seeds could irritate the hands and skin. Hot Portugal peppers will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week when loosely wrapped in plastic. The peppers can be frozen for up to a month, or preserved by canning or pickling for up to six months.
Peppers are native to South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean. Peppers were brought back to Spain and Portugal with the explorers who visited the New World in search of spices and trade routes. The Portuguese took peppers along with many other types of New World plants to their colonies in Africa, India and Asia and there, new pepper varieties were born and continue to thrive.
Hot Portugal peppers are a variety likely developed in the United States in the 1920s. The spicy peppers were first offered by Harris’ Seeds, owned by Joseph Harris of Coldwater, New York. The seed was given to Seed Savers Exchange in 1935 by the company, introduced as a “new” long, hot pepper. Hot Portugal plants are sturdy and high-yielding and grow well in a variety of environments, but still need the heat of the summer to allow the fruits to ripen. They grow well in almost all regions of the United States, though they aren’t commercially produced. Hot Portugal peppers can be found through small farms at local farmer’s markets and in home gardens.