For centuries, the people of Brazil have used Quinhapira to deal with a wide variety of ailments. Called the "Master of the Sacred Tree," the natives from Rio Trabajon in the state of Bahia de Queimada have been using Quinhapira for healing purposes for hundreds of years. The native name of this tree is "Quinha paeoniflora," which literally means "potato plant." The name comes from the bark of the fruit, which is white and thick and has a strong aroma. The fruit itself is very aromatic and its flavor is similar to that of potatoes or leeks.
The medicinal properties of the leaves of the quinhapira came to the attention of the indigenous people of Brazil when they began to learn how to grow and harvest the berries. Early attempts to use the herb for medicinal purposes were met with poor results, since the berries lack most of the vitamins and other essential nutrients found in fruits. In addition, there was little use for the pulp because the berries themselves are very bitter. It was only after botanists began studying the habits of the indigenous people of Brazil that they learned that the plant had many uses. Quinhapira is the simplest of all the tucupis made from the fruit.
It is a cousin of the pepper family, Capsicum, and grows wild throughout much of the Amazon rainforest. Quinhapira has a slightly thicker shell than the normal range of Capsicum and is rarely encountered outside of the Amazon. It is yellowish-green in color and grows in clusters of three to five leaves. The flowers bloom during late summer or early fall, and they look like small pumpkins. Because it is a member of the Capsicum family, it contains all of the essential oils that are often found in capsaicin, which is the substance that gives peppers and onions their taste. One study says that it has more capsaicin than any other spice in the world.
The pepper used to make the small farm products of Brazil is a distant relative of the nazrila pepper, which is native to the Amazons. Like all of the capsicum varieties, it contains capsaicin, a powerful pungent substance that produces a strong aroma in the mouth. It is often likened to a spicy version of a hot dog. The smallest farm where this herbal extract is harvested is called the Caboclo reserve, located in the Amazons in the Brazilian Amazon.
Brazilians have used the plant to flavor a wide range of foods, including prawns, chicken, beef, cheese, milk, fruit juices, chocolate, and tea. It is also commonly added to teas and given as an extra ingredient to a variety of sweets. In ancient times it was used to cure fevers, as well as to prevent the development of stomach flu. Today, it is sold as a spice in the form of a dried ground flower. The small farm where it is sold is called the Oibi reserve.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Brazilian diet is the extensive use of the small red chilli, or quinceanera pepper, which has taken on the name of" Quinhapira" after a small indigenous boy who was killed fighting in the Amazons' struggle for independence from Portugal. This spicy plant is considered an essential ingredient in the preparation of the traditional food of Brazilians. Even today, some parts of the country use quinceanera as part of their preparation process. It's very flavorful and also has a high smoke point.
If you were to take a walk in the Amazon rainforest in search of a delicious, hot, traditional food from the rainforests of Brazil, you'd likely not find a vegetable called quinceanera peppers, but instead, you would find green chillis, or quinceanas. These are the same capsicum shaped peppers that are so common in South America, but these peppers have an intense, mustard flavored taste. Chances are that if you grew up eating the traditional food of Brazil, or at least the food that your family ate, that you would be familiar with the colorful hot peppers that make up the jiquitaia pepper family. These spicy peppers make excellent additions to the preparation of traditional Brazilian food, or even the preparation of jiquitaia pepper products such as jalapeno peppers, or jicama chillis.
The beautiful thing about preparing authentic Brazilian food in the 21st century is that one doesn't necessarily need to know Spanish, or Portuguese, or any other language for that matter, to cook Brazilian food. We can all benefit from the unique flavors of Brazilian food and the preparation of traditional Brazilian food in its most authentic form. The wonderful thing about the Jiqueva pepper, which is a very common variety of jiquitaia pepper, is that it can go well with just about any type of meat.