Varieties in Kenya include Cayenne Pepper, Bird’s Eye, Jalapeno, Serenade, habareno among others.

Chilli peppers (Capsicum annuum) are the fruits of Capsicum pepper plants, notable for their hot flavor.

They are members of the nightshade family, related to bell peppers and tomatoes. Many varieties of chilli peppers exist, such as cayenne and jalapeño.

Across the world, chilli is used to flavour many dishes. In Kenya, people from the Coastal region are known for their love of chilli as a spice. The Asian communities like Indians also enjoy chilli in their cuisine.

According to Chilli peppers are rich in various vitamins and minerals such as potassium and copper, but usually eaten in small amounts — so they don’t contribute significantly to your daily micronutrient intake.

Chilli peppers are a rich source of spicy-hot capsaicin. They are also very high in antioxidant carotenoids, which are linked to numerous health benefits.

Varieties in Kenya include Cayenne Pepper, Bird’s Eye, Jalapeno, Serenade, habareno among others.

Most chilli peppers in Kenya are grown for the export market, however, not all of the produce make it abroad.

Andrew Odundo, a tomato and chilli farmer from Homa Bay county saw a gap in the market and took advantage to turn chilli to other value added products. Odundo sells these products mostly on orders and through referrals.

“Rather than only promoting the direct product, spice traders can also concentrate on the level of spice or heat derived from these chillies. This will help repackage the product and strengthen the market,” says Odundo.

Fast maturing

According to Odundo, the crop is fast maturing and easy to manage especially when there are no pests or disease attacks. With the right management, the crop matures in just two and a half months after planting.

He advises those interested in the export market to seek support from Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) for proper processes. He also shares some products that can be made from chilli.

Dried Chilli

Dried chilies are used for adding heat and spice to dishes. The use of dried chillies not only makes the dish spicy but also provides a stronger taste and colour to the dish.

To make dried chilli, you need red fresh chilli peppers.

 It is best to use mature pods and varieties like Red Cayenne, Jalapeno, Red Chili work well. Choose peppers that are damage-free, do not have white or black dots or any softness.

“Make sure to wear gloves whenever handling hot peppers and avoid contact with your eyes, nose and mouth. The capsaicin within the peppers can linger on your skin even after multiple hand washes, the more reason to wear gloves,” says Odundo.

Dry in the oven

If your oven goes as low as 50 to 60 degrees C or 120 to 140 degrees Fareinheiht, then dry for about six to eight hours. Keep an eye on them to see if the chillies begin to ‘cook’ in any way.

If the oven’s temperature does not go as low, select the lowest possible temperature. This will allow for better airflow and will remove all water vapour quickly.

You can use a wooden spoon or another heatproof utensil to help keep the oven door open just one to two centimetres.

Allow the dried chilies to cool down. Package the dried chillies in clean tins or in recommended plastic bags. A kilogram is sold at about Sh2,600.

Chilli Flakes

These are made from dried chilli.

Chilli flakes, red pepper flakes, and crushed red pepper flakes all refer to the same type of product, a condiment that is made up of dried and crushed whole peppers (seeds and all).

These dried chilli flakes can be sprinkled over or mixed into countless meals.

Red pepper flakes can often be made up of a combination of different peppers. Meanwhile, chilli flakes are usually a single type of pepper. They are most often made with cayenne peppers, though they can use various chillies, such as Anaheim and jalapeno.

Once the peppers are dehydrated, you can crush the peppers to make the chilli flakes. To do this, place them in a bag and crush them by hand. Alternatively, grind them in a blender or coffee grinder for just a few seconds.

Dried chillies have a fantastic shelf life of at least 12 months if stored properly. Make sure to keep them in a dark, cool environment that is moisture-free and in an airtight container.

100 grams may go for Sh210.

Chilli infused oil

To make this, you need dried chilli flakes, canola or other neutral oil such as olive and coconut oil and salt.

Pour the oil in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat.

“Heat the oil for about two to three minutes. It is important not to overheat the oil. Heating it on medium-low is good,” says Odundo.

Next, carefully pour the oil over the dried chilli flakes. They will sizzle wonderfully from the heat and let off some aroma.

Add the salt to the mixture and stir well. Finally, leave the oil to cool down completely then transfer to a sterilised glass jar.

As long as the oil is stored in a sterilised, airtight container, it will last six months, if not longer.

One litre sells at Sh670.

Chilli powder

This is dried, pulverised fruit of one or more varieties of chilli pepper, sometimes with the addition of other spices. It is used as a spice (or spice blend) to add appetising flavour to culinary dishes and different cuisines. 

Spoon filled with red hot paprika powder and red hot chili pepper over wooden background.

From the Chilli flakes, one can continue with the process to make Chilli powder. It is even better that other ingredients like oregano and paprika can be incorporated.

You can further grind the dried chilli flakes using pestle and mortar until they become fine.

“At this stage, you basically have your chilli powder. You can add other ingredients and mix, or shake then store the end product in a clean jar,” says Odundo.  For food safety, handle all steps under hygienic conditions.

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