Cayenne pepper

Poisonous Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is an indiscriminate mixture of the powder of the dried pods of many species of capsicum, but especially of the capsicum frutescens, or bird pepper, which is the hottest of all.

This annual plant, a native of South America, is cultivated in large quantities in our West-India islands, and even frequently in our gardens, for the beauty of its pods, which are long, pointed, and pendulous, at first of a green colour, and, when ripe, of a bright orange red. They are filled with a dry loose pulp, and contain many small, flat, kidney-shaped seeds. The taste of capsicum is extremely pungent and acrimonious, setting the mouth, as it were, on fire.

The principle on which its pungency depends, is soluble in water and in alcohol.

It is sometimes adulterated with red lead, to prevent it becoming bleached on exposure to light. This fraud may be readily detected by shaking up part of it in a stopped vial containing water impregnated with sulphuretted hydrogen gas, which will cause it speedily to assume a dark muddy black colour. Or the vegetable matter of the pepper may be destroyed, by throwing a mixture of one part of the suspected pepper and three of nitrate of potash (or two of chlorate of potash) into a red-hot crucible, in small quantities at a time. The mass left behind may then be digested in weak nitric acid, and the solution assayed for lead by water impregnated with sulphuretted hydrogen.