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Chili Peppers

Chili peppers, also known as chili peppers or chilli peppers, are the fruits of plants from the genus Capsicum, members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. Chili peppers are widely used in many cuisines as a spice to add heat to dishes.

The substances that give chili peppers their intensity when ingested or applied topically are capsaicin and related compounds known as capsaicinoids.

Chili peppers originated in Mexico. After the Colombian Exchange, many cultivars of chili pepper spread across the world, used for both food and traditional medicine.

The most common varieties of chili peppers include bell peppers (not spicy), jalapeños, poblano peppers, serrano peppers, and habanero peppers. Each variety has a unique flavor profile and level of spiciness.

Chili peppers are rich in vitamin C and provitamin A.

Chili peppers can be used fresh, dried, or powdered. They are commonly used to add flavor and heat to a wide variety of dishes, including salsas, stews, soups, and stir-fries. Chili peppers are also used to make hot sauce and other condiments.

Cultural significance:

Chili peppers have played a significant role in various cultures around the world. They are often used in traditional dishes and are associated with specific regions and cuisines. For example, chili peppers are essential ingredients in Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Chinese cuisines.

In some cultures, chili peppers are believed to have medicinal properties and are used in traditional remedies for various ailments. Chili peppers are also used in some religious and spiritual practices.


While chili peppers are generally safe to consume, they can cause a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, especially for those who are not accustomed to spicy foods. It is important to handle chili peppers with care, as the capsaicin can irritate the skin and eyes.

If you experience discomfort after consuming chili peppers, drinking milk or yogurt can help to neutralize the burning sensation.

The most common unit to measure chili pepper heat is the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU). The Scoville scale, named after its creator, Wilbur Scoville, is a measurement of the pungency (spiciness or "heat") of chili peppers, as well as other spicy foods, and is based on the concentration of capsaicinoids.

The Scoville scale is a psychophysical scale, meaning it relies on human perception to determine the heat level. It is based on the dilution needed to neutralize the capsaicinoids in a chili pepper to the point where it can no longer be detected by a panel of trained tasters. The higher the SHU value, the hotter the pepper.

A few examples of peppers and their respective SHU values:

While the Scoville scale is the most widely used method for measuring chili pepper heat, it is not without its limitations. The Scoville scale is a subjective measurement, and results can vary depending on the tasters and the testing method. Additionally, the Scoville scale does not take into account the different types of capsaicinoids present in chili peppers, which can affect the overall heat perception.

Some of my favorites;

Aji Amarillo

Believed to have originated in Peru, this intensely fruity, moderately hot, and complexly flavored pepper is about six inches long when mature. The aji amarillo is a favorite in Peru and Bolivia and a great all-purpose cooking pepper

Aji Caballero

This inch-long Caribbean pepper is often sold commercially in the United States under the name Puerto Rican jelly bean, and it packs a mighty heat. Puerto Ricans pickle it in vinegar, garlic, and other ingredients to make a hot sauce called pique, which, like Tabasco, is often brought to the table to garnish foods.

Belize Sweet Habanero

Seeds from this small, winsome red pepper came from the town of Punta Gorda in Belize. It resembles the much hotter scotch bonnet pepper more closely than the smoother-skinned habaneros of the neighboring Yucatan. Like the aji dulce, its chinense cousin, it is very aromatic and only moderately hot.

Bolivian Habanero

This plum-size, very hot Bolivian pepper can be used to make a delicious red onion relish flavored with bitter oranges. The combination creates a tongue-tickling acidity that’s a perfect accompaniment to crisp-skinned Bolivian-style pork with roasted potatoes and sweet, Andean yam-like tubers such as oca.

Caribbean Red

Ripening to a rich, orangey red, this one-and-a-half-inch-long, scorchingly hot pepper–it’s twice as hot as many of its notoriously pungent C. chinense cousins–can be identified by its distinctive, pointy tip. Used sparingly, it gives a pronounced aromatic dimension and bracing heat to fresh salsas.


This pretty, plum-size Mexican chile is moderately hot. When mature, it is a burgundy red and, when dried, becomes a very dark reddish brown and rattles if shaken–which accounts for its name, which means jingle bell in Spanish. Fresh cascabels lend strong tannic notes to table salsas and cooked sauces.


From its South American home, the bitingly hot cayenne traveled across the world with Portuguese explorers. It is now widely cultivated in North America. The seasoning powder sold commercially as cayenne pepper is no longer made exclusively with cayennes but, usually, with a blend of other hot cultivars.

Chapeau de Frade

Shaped like a bishop’s crown, with a pronounced lobed and concave tip, this very hot pepper is called pimenta cambuci in its native Brazil. It is almost too beautiful to eat, but its fruity flavor is as alluring as it curious silhouette. Try it raw in seafood cocktails and savory fruit salsas.

Chocolate Habanero

The name of this chubby, two-inch-wide Caribbean habanero refers to the rich, dark hue of its skin and not to its taste, which is all about heat, not sweetness. Try chocolate habaneros in uncooked dishes, to show off the peppers’ handsome color.

Ecuadoran Aji

On an Ecuadoran table there’s almost always a tangy fresh condiment made with red onions and this pungent red pepper. Maturing to a length of four inches or so, the Ecuadoran aji ripens from a deep green to an arresting bright red.


Mexicans love the fleshy jalapeño as a vegetable. They marinate it in vinegary escabeches (pickling sauces) or cut it into strips (rajas) to give moderate heat to a variety of foods, including the filling for tamales. When the jalapeño is dried and smoked it becomes the complexly flavored chipotle.


In Mexico, the large, moderately hot poblano is the quintessential pepper for stuffing. Some cultivars mature from a deep green to mahogany; others ripen to a chocolate brown. When dried, the greener peppers become wrinkled and dark brown ancho chiles, which are essential to cooked sauces and moles.

Have a happy hump day, and add a little spice to your life!

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