We thought it would be interesting to see what John Parkinson’s herbal, Theatrum Botanicum, published in 1640, made of capsicums or chillies. These were a fairly new item of trade in his time, the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I. He knew the plants as ginny peppers (because of coming from Virginia).
He noted that small quantities of chillies were medicinal and pleasurable, and recommended taking them baked in bread form (recipe given below). He explained the benefits to the digestion and for removal of phlegm, in treating coughs and sore throats, to improve period pain, and when reduced to an ash to whiten the teeth.
Taming fire: a simple chilli bread (photo and recipe below)
This recipe is adapted by Parkinson from the writings of Capuchin friar and botanist Gregorio de Reggio (d. 1614). We tried it, and it worked for us to moderate the hottest chillies, and the baking process, to our surprise, produced a loaf that had a strong chilli effect without the usual burning mouth or coughing fit.
We took 30g (1 oz) of hot chilli powder and mixed it with 450g (about 1 lb) of wheat flour, 1 teaspoon of yeast and 1.5 cups warm water to produce a dough. We kneaded this, then placed it an oiled tin to rise. It was then baked for 45 minutes at 175C (350F).
Parkinson sliced his bread and baked it again until crisp (melba toast). We found this very tasty, and kept some in a jar to stay crisp. We powdered some too to use as spicy breadcrumbs.
Find out more about John Parkinson's Herbalist Bible: https://merlinunwin.co.uk/products/the-herbalists-bible