Types of hot peppers, chilies are a crop capable of involving a large number of enthusiasts, who plant them in the garden, in the vegetable garden, on the balcony and even indoors.
Their charm is certainly linked to the spiciness, which in some cases represents a real challenge for the palate. In fact, very picant cultivars have been selected, which are evaluated through a score linked to the capsaicin content (the Scoville scale).
Under the name of “chili pepper” we find an infinite number of cultivars that you can decide to sow or plant, these belong to 5 distinct botanical species. The varieties are therefore many and varied: from Calabrian to Mexican each area has its typical chillies, of different sizes and shapes, declined in a rainbow of colors, ranging from green to purple, from red to yellow. So let’s try to orient ourselves in the world of hot pepper varieties, pointing out some of them that are particularly interesting.
20 hot pepper varieties to experiment with
I present to you a small anthology of interesting varieties, the invitation is to let yourself be guided by curiosity and experiment.
You can decide either to start from the seeds or to buy the seedlings.
Unfortunately, nurseries do not always have a lot of choices and the risk of buying in a garden is to always find the usual vegetables to plant. For a better choice, I recommend that you take a look at the amazon website. You will find a well-stocked section dedicated to hot peppers, which includes most of the varieties mentioned in this article.
Perfect varieties in the kitchen
For cooking, I recommend choosing low or medium spicy varieties, the very spicy ones are in fact too invasive to lend themselves to many recipes. My favorites are the classic Mexican Jalapeno and the Peruvian aji amarillo, without forgetting “our” Calabrian chilli.
Aji amarillo is a Peruvian pepper with a robust plant, it is part of the capsicum baccatum species. It is not particularly spicy (around 15,000 Scoville points) and for this reason it can be used safely in the kitchen, in Peru it is used a lot and is often combined with fish. Its fruit is elongated, yellow-orange, about 15 cm long.
Growing it is interesting because it is a hardy variety that is very easy to grow.
Legendary variety of Mexican chilli, mainly used in Tex Mex cuisine. What makes jalapeno particularly sought after for culinary purposes is its balanced spiciness, which makes it very versatile in recipes. Its crunchy and resistant pulp makes it perfect for being stuffed, irresistible with tuna and / or cheese.
The plant is small in size, but produces well.
Tabasco is a variety of chilli pepper made famous by the classic spicy sauce that is obtained from it and which has the same name, it is prepared by leaving the ground chilli pepper in salt for a long time. For flavor and spiciness we are talking about a very interesting cultivar, at 50,000 SHU.
From a cultivation point of view, Tabasco is a super productive plant, so it’s worth trying to put it in the garden.
Beni Highlands (Chili Gentle Cheer)
Chilli peppers with a lively yellow color, medium spiciness, the fruits of Beni Hihlands Pepper are fleshy, 5-6 cm long, with a sweet and aromatic flavor. It is worth planting to experience its flavor.
After mentioning Latin American peppers and tropical varieties, we finally find a local variety of our country: the diavolicchio is the most cultivated pepper in Calabria, with a respectable spiciness (150,000 SHU) it is a very strong capiscum annuum, even if it certainly does not compete with i capsicum chinense. It is worth planting it and picking its small bright red fruits, which are particularly suitable for drying.
Super spicy varieties
Cultivating super spicy is the pride of many enthusiasts, in search of the highest Scoville score (the Scoville scale, as we will see at the end of the article, is the method of measuring spiciness, which is expressed in SHU).
Generally, the highest degree of capsaicin is in the cultivars of the capiscum chinense species. The hottest chili pepper in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records would be the Carolina Reaper, a cultivar selected by Ed Currie, crossing Naga Morich and Habanero Red, originally called by the acronym HP22B. The Carolina Reaper records a score of 2,200,000 on the Scoville scale. We find him in the Guinness Book of Records since 2013, when he beat Trinidad Scorpion.
The primacy of the carolina reaper was beaten by Dragon’s Breath with 2,480,000 SHU and then immediately surpassed by pepper X, a cultivar always selected by Ed Currie with 3,180,000 SHU spiciness. This result is not yet recorded in the Guinnesses but it makes pepper X the hottest pepper ever.
Here are some top chillies for capsaicin that can be planted in the garden.
With a score of 2.2000 SHU, the Carolina Reaper is the hottest pepper in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. It seems that this variety has recently been surpassed but it is still a chilli that has become legend, with a very high content of capsaicin: a cultivation suitable for the most daring palates.
Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and Trinidad Douglah
The Trinidad chilli is a family that is characterized by the bizarre shape of the fruit and by a florid and luxuriant plant, these are very spicy cultivars.
The douglah is a variety of Trinidad with intense red color, almost reaching the brown of the habanero chocolate.
Trinidad red scorpion instead has brightly colored fruits, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion variety has a record spiciness: with 2 million Scoville points in 2012 it was the hottest ever, today it is still on the podium.
Feared Indian chili, has a Scoville score of 1,100,000 SHU making it among the hottest in the world. The naga morich plant is native to Bangladesh and in keeping with its tropical origin it requires a warm humid climate, which is why in some areas it is grown indoors.
Red pepper also called bhut jolokia (snake pepper), ghost chili, naga jolokia (red Cobra), high in capsaicin, with a Scoville score above one million units. In 2007 it was the record holder for spiciness, before being surpassed by Trinidad Moruga. For those who want to test an old glory of the very spicy it is certainly an interesting cultivar.
Under the name habanero we find a series of very interesting and very hot pepper varieties, originating from the Yucatan. Based on the color of the peel we can list the best known:
- Habanero chocolate
- Habanero orange
- Habanero peach
- Red habanero
- Hananero Red Savina
- Spinning top (Habanero orange blob)
- Bullet (Habanero white bullet)
- Among the various Mexican habanero cultivars, Red Savina is the hottest, it can reach 500,000 SHU. Red habaneros are not all that strong, but they generally travel anywhere from 100,000 SHU and up. Habanero chocolate, orange and peach are also mouth-watering, with Scoville levels around 200/300 thousand SHU.
The bullet chilli and the spinning top are less spicy. The bullet is characterized by its white color, being not very fleshy it is an excellent variety for drying, the top is very beautiful at the plant level and has a pleasant citrus flavor.
Variety of African origin, with a beautiful bright yellow skin, the Fatalii is part of the habanero family and does not skimp on capsaicin, reaching twice the spiciness of Calabrian peppers (325,000 SHU).
Pear Shaped (spicy pear)
Plant of the family of capsicum chinense, a close relative of the feared Trinidad Scorpion, from which it is distinguished by its yellow color and by a slightly more regular shape which in the name is associated with that of the pear.
The yellow pear chilli has a good fruity flavor, accompanied by a high spiciness. If we want to plant this variety, we must take into account that it has a large plant, reaches 150 in height, so it needs a sixth of a plant a little wider than the other peppers. The fruit is also fleshy and rather large, this allows you to better appreciate its flavor.
Particularly ornamental variety
The capsicum plant is very beautiful from an aesthetic point of view and there are really very ornamental varieties of chilli. I believe that any cultivar has its own aesthetic value, but it is still worth mentioning some particularly beautiful peppers, ideal for the garden or for a well-kept balcony.
Aji Omnicolor (color and flavor)
This species forms a small plant, around 50 cm in height, which makes it very suitable for cultivation in pots, on a balcony well exposed to the sun.
The very ornamental cultivar, due to its characteristic multi-colored fruits, but it is not only aesthetic since the fruits are aromatic and with a moderate spiciness (50,000 Scoville points). The name, color, and flavor, recall the double gastronomic and scenographic value of this aji.
Beautiful small chilli pepper, the plant with its small multicolored fruits has a nice aesthetic presence and produces a good amount of hot chilies (95,000 on the Scoville scale). Like the multicolor aji, it is a variety recommended for those who want something ornamental but also edible.
Multicolor ornamental (bonsai pepper)
Another multi-colored ornamental pepper, that is, has fruits that take on different colors on the same plant, so we can see yellow, purple, green, and red at the same time.
It is a compact species, so much so that it deserves the nickname of bonsai pepper, which is why it is an excellent choice if we want something to grow in pots. The fact that it is an ornamental plant does not mean that it does not produce edible fruits, it is pleasant chillies of medium spiciness.
Chilli monkey nipples
Variety of capsicum chinense domesticated from the spicy and aromatic fruit, the monkey nipple is characterized by the picturesque name but also by a good aroma and a discreet spiciness. The small fruits measure the respectable Scoville grade of 150,000, without getting to the crazy numbers of super spicy it’s still a fortina cultivar. The plant is small in size and loves the heat, the origin is South American. A chilli pepper that is different from the usual and tidy in appearance, the monkey nipple does not look bad even on an ornamental level.
The Mexican condor is a small pepper, with fruits about 2 cm long, red and purple in color. Like the aji, the condor is also a cultivar that combines a pleasant appearance with an aromatic and spicy fruit (around 40,000 SHU) and is a very interesting plant for the vegetable garden.
Thai orange (orange horned pepper)
Types of hot peppers that are not very hot, with orange fruit measuring 3 cm in length, with the classic elongated and curved shape that gives them the nickname horned, Thai orange has an early ripening which makes it ideal for those who start a little late and he has to plant when the season has begun.
The hot lemon pepper, as the name implies, is a bright yellow variety, registering 30,000 SHU on the Scoville scale. It is part of the aji family and of the Capsicum Baccatum species. The fruits are elongated and of medium size, the plant is of good size (height about 100 cm, diameter about 70 cm).
Typical Mexican cultivar, which produces conical peppers grouped in bunches, when ripe they turn upwards and are therefore also called “look in the sky”.
How to choose the variety to grow
We have just listed many pepper cultivars, and they are only a small part of those present. One wonders how to choose which one to cultivate.
There are three main criteria:
- Botanical criterion: cultural cycle and climatic resistance of the plant.
- Aesthetic criterion: ornamental value and size of the plant.
- Gastronomic criterion: degree of spiciness and flavor of the fruit.
The variety suitable for the climate
The most experienced growers know the importance of choosing varieties suitable for their climate. Some chilies of tropical origin, for example, the naga morich, require a hot and humid climate, while there are other cultivars, such as the aji Amarillo, which are much more resistant to cold.
This is not an obligatory constraint: with a greenhouse or a grow box for growing indoors, you can grow any pepper, but if you want to plant in the garden without too many worries, it is better to check the tolerance of the cultivar.
The duration of the crop cycle is also important: late-ripening peppers require a long hot season, in colder areas it is better to choose early varieties. Also in this case we can get around the problem, with a heated seedbed to anticipate sowing, or by directly buying the formed seedling ready for transplanting.
Choose ornamental chillies
If the chili pepper is found in the garden, you can focus on varieties that are pleasant in appearance. In this the multicolor aji and the bonsai pepper are unsurpassed, with their colorful stage presence, but also an orange habanero “top” does not look bad.
If you want to grow in pots, it is good to pay attention to the appearance of the plant, not only for its aesthetics but also for the size it will reach. Small cultivars certainly lend themselves better to being in containers.
Choose according to taste and use
When choosing, the most important thing is to decide on the most suitable chili pepper for the use you plan to make, and first of all, it is a matter of taste.
Super hot peppers like carolina reaper and naga morich are fun to brag to friends and make very strong sauces, but often a medium spiciness, such as aji, is more versatile in the kitchen.
To make chili jams it is good to choose cultivars with fleshy fruit, for example, the highlands goods, while on the contrary drying is easier having chilies with little pulp. If we want to prepare stuffed peppers we need to select a medium-sized fruit, with resistant skin and pulp, in this the jalapeno is unsurpassed.
The 5 species of chilli
After having seen the most interesting cultivars, a small “botanical” appendix: sweet pepper and hot pepper are plants of the nightshade family and of the genus capsicum, in which we find several species. The cultivars grown today are part of 5 species.
It is the most widespread and most cultivated species, including the classic sweet peppers, friggitelli and many of the most famous peppers. Among the capsicum annuum we find the Italian varieties, including the Calabrian ones and many other famous types of chilli such as jalapeno, cayenne, paprika, pimento, nuMex, diavolicchio and charleston.
Species of chillies typical especially of Latin America (Bolivia, Peru). Among the capsicum baccatum we find the aji family, very popular in the kitchen for their moderate spiciness, which also leaves room for the pepper flavor, there are also some ornamental species.
Frutescens is a species to which decidedly spicy cultivars belong, the most famous is Tabasco, from which a renowned sauce is obtained. The capsicum frutescens plant is characterized by a sapling habit.
Capsicum chinense is one of the hottest peppers in the world, including the Carolina Reaper (HP22B), who holds the Scoville world scoring record. Among the Chinense we find Mexican habanero and many samples of spiciness very rich in capsaicin: Naga morich, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Habanero Red Savina. These are rather long plants to mature, which is why if you want to start from the seed they practically always require a heated seedbed, often even a grow box.
Another species of hot peppers of South American origin (Mexico, Caribbean, Bolivia, Peru), despite their origins close to the equator, are the capsicum plants that resist better the cold, in the areas of origin they were also cultivated at an altitude sustained (above 1500 meters). Among the cultivars we remember the Rocoto family.
The scoville scale to measure spiciness
The spiciness of chillies is due to the content of capsaicin or capsicin, the active ingredient contained in capsicum. Depending on the variety, the presence of capsicin changes, which we find in very low doses in sweet peppers and instead in massive doses in the more lethal varieties, such as habanero, scorpion and naga morich.
To measure how hot a pepper is, a measurement scale dedicated to these fruits is used: the Scoville scale.
The Scoville scale, invented in 1912 by William Scoville, is an index that measures the capsaicin content in the fruit. The score is calculated using a formula that places pure capsaicin at the arbitrary value of 16,000,000 Scoville units. Scoville units are indicated by the abbreviation SHU (Scoville Heat Units).
When a SHU score is indicated for a variety, an approximation is made: in reality, every single pepper grown would have its own degree of spiciness, since the amount of capsaicin varies based on many cultivation factors, not just varietal.
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