Bulgarian chili peppers are an heirloom variety of long cayenne peppers belonging to the Capsicum annuum longum species. They are essentially a variety of long hot peppers that ripen to a bright red color. Bulgarian chili peppers are one of approximately 50,000 different types of peppers, and have been in cultivation in Bulgaria, Romania and other Balkan countries for roughly 100 years, with seeds being harvested yearly from the fruits and passed down in the family for generations.
What do Bulgarian chili peppers look like?
Bulgarian chili peppers look like a typical cayenne pepper: long, slim and tapering, often with a bent tip that looks like a hook. The variety reaches an impressive length of 22-24 cm, or more. The peppers start to curve mid-length and may form small, crinkly folds if the curve is more abrupt. Bulgarian chili peppers are dark green when unripe, then turn a lighter yellow-green and finally bright red. The peppers are somewhat thick, with moderately meaty flesh and thin, glossy and smooth skin.
The seeds are flat and creamy white, attached to a spongy, white pith joined to the stem at the base of the pepper. While purple, black, yellow and even orange cayenne pepper varieties also exist, these heirloom Bulgarian chili peppers are primarily of the red variety.
What do Bulgarian chili peppers taste like?
Bulgarian chili peppers are a type of spicy pepper and generally mildly to moderately hot. The peppers naturally produce capsaicin and related components which make them taste spicy, hot or pungent. On the Scoville heat, Bulgarian chili peppers have a rating of 25,000 to 50,000 heat units.
Because pungency varies according to factors such as species, cultivated variety and growing conditions (e.g. soil, climate, weather conditions), it’s possible to have inconsistent-tasting peppers, even within the same variety or crop. The unripe fruits are less pungent (pungency increases as they ripen), and somewhat bitter to the taste. The seeds of the ripe fruits and some of the spongy white pith are also spicy, as well as edible.
Bulgarian chili peppers nutrition facts
Ripe red Bulgarian chili peppers contain good amounts of vitamin A in the form of carotenoid antioxidants, primarily beta-carotene, but also alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. The pro-vitamin A antioxidants are absorbed and converted into the vitamin with the help of fats.
Ripe raw Bulgarian chili peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, providing over 150% of the daily requirements of vitamin C per 100 g. The variety also contains a range of B vitamins, notably vitamin B6, and minerals such as magnesium, potassium and iron. The pepper seeds are a source of vitamin E and capsaicinoids.
Bulgarian chili peppers are low in calories with an energetic value of around 40 kilocalories (calories) per 100 grams, and low-fat with less than 0.5% fat. The fruits have roughly 8-9 grams of carbs per 100 grams, of which 5 grams are sugars, 1.5 grams dietary fiber, and close to 2 grams of protein.
Bulgarian chili peppers are a source of pungent capsaicinoid compounds such as capsaicin, nonivamide, dihydrocapsaicin, nordihydrocapsaicin, homocapsaicin, and homodihydrocapsaicin. Capsaicinoid compounds are alkaloids and have irritant properties, but also pain-relieving properties when applied topically. The unripe peppers are milder, so lower in pungent capsaicinoid compounds, and a source of chlorophyll.
What are the benefits?
The benefits of Bulgarian chili peppers are limited, primarily because intake is limited as well due to the peppers being spicy. A regular, but reasonable intake can however contribute to good health and provide the following benefits:
- Benefits for weight loss. Despite intake being limited, Bulgarian chili peppers can help you lose weight by curbing hunger and reducing cravings.
- Anti-inflammatory benefits. Capsaicin and other capsaicinoids in Bulgarian chili peppers have topical analgesic properties, while vitamin C acts as an anti-inflammatory agent from the inside.
- Benefits for the immune system. Vitamin C, pro-vitamin A antioxidants and carotenoids without vitamin A activity, and other antioxidants modulate and support the immune system function through anti-inflammatory, free radical scavenging and wound healing effects.
- Benefits for eyesight, including visual acuity, color vision and night vision, and eye health, from pro-vitamin A antioxidants and antioxidants without vitamin A activity.
- Minor benefits for blood pressure. Essentially sodium free and a good source of potassium and magnesium, Bulgarian chili peppers contribute to healthier blood pressure numbers.
- Other cardiovascular benefits: the high content of vitamin C in Bulgarian chili peppers helps maintain blood vessel elasticity and clear plaque from blood vessel walls.
- Anti-aging benefits owed primarily to a high content of vitamin C which boosts synthesis of collagen in the skin for improved skin elasticity and fewer wrinkles.
- Other benefits for skin: B vitamins and vitamin C in Bulgarian chili peppers support wound healing processes, while vitamin A supports skin renewal via the production of new skin cells.
- Anti-anemia benefits owed to a high content of vitamin C which boosts iron absorption and B vitamins and iron with benefits for red blood cell production.
- Good food for diabetes. Bulgarian chili peppers are a low glycemic index food with minimal effects on blood sugar and can be eaten safely by diabetics.
What are the side effects?
Some people tolerate spicy food well and do not experience any side effects, provided intake is reasonable. However, not everyone responds well to spicy foods and, for some people, the side effects of eating chili peppers may outweigh the benefits. Some of the biggest side effects of eating Bulgarian chili peppers include:
Irritation of mucous membranes
Pungent capsaicinoids in Bulgarian chili peppers can irritate mucous membranes it comes into contact with, including the throat and stomach lining, the nose and eyes, the lungs and even skin, causing a burning sensation of an intensity that is directly proportional to intake or duration of exposure.
Heartburn and acid reflux
Common in case of excessive intake and in those with pre-existing GERD (acid reflux disease). May be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, a bad sour taste in the mouth, and other acid reflux symptoms.
Symptoms may include burning sensation in the chest or upper abdominal area, stomach pain and general upset, nausea, vomiting, loose stools and diarrhea.
If you have gastritis, eating spicy foods is very likely to flare up your condition. Pungent capsaicinoid constituents responsible for the spicy taste of the peppers irritate the stomach lining which amplifies the severity of the gastritis and causes symptoms to become worse. See what other foods to avoid for gastritis.
Bad for hemorrhoids
If you have hemorrhoids, eating too many Bulgarian chili peppers can cause a burning sensation, discomfort, pain and even bleeding as a result of the irritating effect of the capsaicinoids in the peppers on mucous membranes of the digestive tract. See what other foods to avoid for hemorrhoids.
It is possible for Bulgarian and other chili peppers to trigger an asthma attack in people with the condition because of the irritant effects of the pungent capsaicinoids in the peppers. Inhaling the pepper powder can cause an asthma attack via irritation of the lungs, while eating the peppers can cause an asthma episode via irritation of the digestive tract mucous membranes which causes stomach acidity and gastroesophageal reflux.
If you are allergic to chili peppers, it is strongly recommended to avoid consumption of the botanical fruits in all forms and preparations. Symptoms such as a skin rash, difficulty breathing, wheezing or hoarseness, swelling of the lips, tongue or throat and even low blood pressure and dizziness indicate an allergic reaction and require immediate medical attention.
This post was updated on Tuesday / August 10th, 2021 at 10:21 PM