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This pungent spice consists of the finely ground flesh and seeds of dried red peppers (Capsicum frutescens). It is the seeds that make the difference; without them you have the relatively mild paprika, but cayenne is distinctly hot. It first found its way to British tables in the eighteenth century, and early spellings (chian, kayan, kian) reflect its source in the language of the Tupi peoples of South America—they called it kyinha. It was not long though before, by the process of folk etymology, it became assimilated to the name of the chief town of French Guiana—Cayenne. Other names given to it include chilli pepper, red pepper, and, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, guinea pepper.

Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.

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