Filipino Hot Peppers for Fiery and Healthy Food Treats

Filipino hot peppers add culinary and medicinal perks to our foods that earn the nods of chefs and health enthusiasts. Our dining will indeed be “cold” without this great item.

There are two kinds of hot peppers used in our dishes- “siling labuyo” or the bird’s eye chili and the “siling mahaba”.

Bird’s Eye Chili

Bird’s eye chili is locally known as “siling labuyo”. Birds love this chili and can even help plant germination through their droppings. The shrub is about a meter high. It has green leaves which can be used for our famous “chicken tinola” and for sea shell soups. It bears small tapered fruits of about 2.5 centimeters long and 0.75 cm on its widest diameter, though some new varieties have bigger fruit sizes.

The fruit turns red from green when it ripens which also becomes spicier. Its pungency ranges from 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville heat units. SHU is the measure of pungency in peppers with a pure capsaicin having a scale of 16,000,000.

filipino hot peppers collage

Siling labuyo can be grown anywhere in the Philippines. Our people in Bicol area and the Muslims in Mindanao are known for using hot pepper more often. Bicol express is their most famous spicy recipe. “Sawsawan” or dipping is best with labuyo. Fish “kinilaw” lacks zest without adding two or more labuyo fruits. Peanuts, crunchy chicharons, barbecues, corn chips and catsups have the options to be spicy with the addition of this chili.

Even health enthusiasts favor this chili option. Indeed siling labuyo has grown essential in Filipino foods.

“Siling Mahaba”

This is also known as “siling kolikot” in Visayas and Mindanao. It is also equivalent to the Spanish chile picante. As its Filipino name suggests, this is longer than labuyo. The fruit is about nine centimeters long with its widest diameter of one centimeter. It also turns red when it is ripe. However, its heat level is less than the small labuyo. This kind of chili is best in recipes like “sinigang” and fish “paksiw”.

Filipino hot peppers in Filipino recipes

Filipino hot peppers in recipes from left to right: bangus paksiw, sinigang na hipon, fish kinilaw, sawsawan (dip) and laing. Photo credits: Filipino Foods and Best Filipino Foods

Health Benefits

The Filipino hot pepper, specifically the siling labuyo under family solanaceae and scientifically named Capsicum frutescens is listed among the country’s medicinal plants. The fruit contains protein, fat, carbohydrates, iron, calcium, vitamins A and C and energy. It also contains the compound called capsaicin which causes strong irritation to the skin and mucous membrane.

The use of Filipino hot pepper-siling labuyo as herbal medicine can be traced in our ancestors. Some of its known remedies are:

  • The crushed fruit mixed with water serves as a gargle to relieve sore throat.
  • It can relieve abdominal pain caused by indigestion or dyspepsia.
  • Its juice can be applied as toothache drop.
  • It can be applied to relieve psoriasis and ringworm.
  • The crushed fruit mixed with coconut oil can be an effective remedy for rheumatism and arthritis.
  • It increases body metabolism and burns fat to help reduce weight.
  • More advanced studies made abroad found out that capsaicin had the ability to prevent the fast replication of prostrate cancer cells.

It can also be used as an insecticide, especially for cockroaches.

Grow as Ornamental Plant

Not only have Filipino hot peppers tremendous benefits, these plants are also easy to cultivate. They can be grown on pots and treated as ornamental plants. In this way, you can get only the desired number but the freshest chili right from your pot. It is best to expose the plant to sunlight. And for even more healthy living, use organic fertilizer to make the plant in good shape ready for vigorous flowering and fruit bearing.

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