The earliest recollection of cayenne pepper in any documented form was in 1493, when Christopher Columbus and his crew discovered it in the Americas. The discovery of this hot spice was very important in that era of booming spice trade. The cayenne pepper belongs to the Capsicum family of vegetables, generally known as chili peppers. It is a native of Cayenne region of French Guyana on the northeast coast of South America. Cayenne Peppers were grown for thousands of years in the West Indies and Central and South America. The same peppers are now grown in India, Japan, and Africa.
Until the beginning of 16th century, hot chili peppers were totally unknown in India. The dubious honor of introducing India to chili peppers belongs to the Portuguese traders. Under the leadership of maritime explorer Vasco da Gama the Portuguese ventured abroad in search of a new sea route to the land of black pepper. As the Portuguese sailed south on a circuitous route they stumbled upon chili peppers at their trading posts on the east coast of Brazil. As they continued their journey, pepper traveled on Portuguese merchant ships Because of our familiarity with pungent spices, Indians were quite taken with the fiery red chili. Today chilies appear in a variety of ways in Indian cuisine. Tolerance for hot chilies is substantial, especially in tropical south India. The diversity and intensity of pepper used in this cuisine rivals that of Mexico and Southwestern United States.
Cayenne peppers are allowed to ripen on the plant to bright red pods. The harvested pods are sun-dried and sold as both whole pods and ground pepper. This fiery spice adds flair to dishes from Asia, the Americas, and the Middle East. Unlike the milder varieties, cayenne pepper uses the seeds and membranes of a high-capsicum chili, making it especially hot and pungent. Chili peppers are ultimate decongestants. Hot and spicy, cayenne pepper is considered a digestive aid. It has been proven beneficial for arthritis, cardiovascular disease, ulcers, headaches, and thyroid dysfunction. Cayenne Pepper provides a rich supply of vitamins B, C and E. It also contains antioxidants that help prevent certain diseases.