Aleppo Chile Pepper
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Aleppo chile pepper plants can grow up to four feet tall. The peppers ripen from a pale green to a bright cherry red in color. Aleppo chile peppers are about three to four inches long, and resemble a long, thin bell pepper. The peppers have a sweet, fruity taste with a bit of a spicy kick at the end. The Aleppo chile pepper rates 23,000 on the Scoville scale, about twice as spicy as a jalapeno pepper.
Aleppo chile peppers are available in the late summer and early fall.
Aleppo chile peppers are a spicy variety of Capsicum annuum, in the same family that includes bell peppers and sweet peppers. Aleppo peppers are named for the city where they grow, in northern Syria, along the Turkey border. The shiny, cherry red Aleppo peppers are also sometimes referred to as Halaby or Halabe peppers. Availability of the Aleppo chile peppers has been limited greatly due to the current civil war in Syria and the surrounding region. Since the spring of 2014, exports of the pepper outside of Aleppo have drastically decreased. Efforts to save the pepper are being made in both Syria and in the United States.
Aleppo chile peppers contain large amounts of vitamin A when ripe and red. Peppers also contain more vitamin C than citrus. Aleppo chile peppers also contain capsaicin, the neuropeptide present in peppers that has painkilling properties. Peppers also have antibacterial properties and contain the same bioflavonoids and antioxidants present in apple juice.
Aleppo chiles are popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. Due to the intensity of the spice, it is recommended to use gloves when seeding Aleppo peppers. Use small amounts of the pepper according to taste. Chop fresh Aleppo chile peppers and add to salsas or sauces, for added spice. Roast whole Aleppo chile peppers to serve as is or to include in marinades for meat or chicken. In northern Syria, Aleppo chiles are most often air dried, seeded and crushed to make a flaky chile spice, used much like red chili flake or paprika. The dried and crushed spice can be added to egg dishes, potatoes, chili or pizzas. Store fresh Aleppo chile peppers in the refrigerator for up to a week.
The town of Aleppo, Syria sits along the famed Silk road that stretched from North Africa through Arabia and Persia and then across to China. Along this trade route, spice was used as currency and traded for other goods dating back as far as 200 BC. But even before that Aleppo was at the center of a trade route across the Arabian Peninsula, dating back to 3,000 BC, when Aleppo was first mentioned in Syrian manuscripts. Aleppo peppers are sometimes referred to as Halaby peppers, likely because the city was renamed Halab for a time after it was conquered by Muslim troops in the mid-7th century.
Chile peppers made their way to the Middle East thanks to Christopher Columbus, who brought the “pepper” back from the West Indies when he was seeking out a new trade route for spices. Peppers from the Capsicum annuum family made their way from Spain to Italy and from there across the Mediterranean Sea to Turkey and Syria. Varieties of Capsicum annuum tend to cross-breed very easily, so new pepper varieties sprung up quickly. Aleppo chile peppers are native to the town with the same name in northwestern Syria. For generations, Aleppo chile peppers were grown in Aleppo, Syria, along the Turkey border. Since the civil war broke out in the spring of 2011, chile crops have been destroyed and many farmers have had to leave their crops. Some moved their production to southern Turkey. Some say the pepper grown outside of Aleppo doesn’t taste the same, but many are working to ensure its fruity, spicy flavor lives on. There is another pepper from this region called “urfa” which is named for a town in southern Turkey. The urfa pepper is hotter, but is sometimes substituted for the Aleppo. Aleppo peppers are grown in very few places outside of Turkey and Syria. A Southern California self-prescribed chileman obtained seeds from a USDA seed bank and has been successful at growing the peppers in Southern California. Aleppo chile peppers may be found at specialty markets or at select farmer’s markets outside of its native region.
Recipes that include Aleppo Chile Pepper. One is easiest, three is harder.
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