The chilli familys

There are five major Species of capsicums that are cultivated around the world and many other wild species. In technical terms the Chilli peppers are in the genus Capsicum which is part of the family Solanaceae making it related to the potato, tobacco, tomato and even the deadly nightshade.


Capsicum Annuum

Capsicum annuum is the best known domesticated species in the world, in the past 20 years the districtions between the Capsicum Annuum, Capsicum Chinense And Capsicum Frutescens has been called into question as at the primitive level you cannot distinguish between the three species, the fact that they will easily hybridize with each other helps with this conclusion.

It has spread to every part of the world becoming the dominant pepper globally, with the Bell pepper in almost every fresh food retailer worldwide and hot spicy varieties a staple of hot cooking.

This was the species that Columbus introduced to Europe in the 1492.

 Cayenne, Poblano, Anaheim, Jalapeno, Pasilla, Serrano

Capsicum Baccatum

The name baccatum refers to the characteristic of the wild species to be berry like, it probably originated from Bolivia, where there are the greatest selection of wild varieties can still be found.

Examples: aji Amarillo, aji cereza, Bolivian Long, Christmas Bell

Capsicum Chinense

Some of the worlds hottest varieties are Capsicum Chinense which was named by Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin (1727-1817), who mistakenly named the species Chinense in 1776, because he believed that they originated in China. It is more likely to have come from Amazonian South America, while it has also appeared sporadically throughout the Caribbean.

Examples: Fatalli, Habanero, Naga Jolokia and Scotch bonnet.

Capsicum Frutescens

The main ingredient of the world most popular chilli sauce Tabasco is a Capsicum Frutescens is grown in large quantities in the Louisiana. (Note: the upper case T for the brand and the lower case t for the chilli variety), Unlike most chillies the Tabasco chilli grows with the fruit pointing up rather than hanging from the plant as does the African Piri Piri.

Examples: Piri Piri ( African Birds Eye), tabasco

Capsicum Pubescens

First domesticated over 6000 year ago. The Pubescens gets its name from the small hairs that cover the leaves and stalks, it is unlike any other domesticated pepper having large purple or white flowers infused with purple and fruits with brown/black seed. There are no wild varieties of this species, though it probably related to a number of other wild species (Capsicum eximium, Capsicum cardenasii, Capsicum tovarii).

Mostly cultivated in South America although small amounts are grown in Guatemala and southern Mexico, it is almost unknown in the rest of the world.

There are verys few varieties of this species, probably due to the fact is cannot cross-pollinate with other chilli species

Examples: Rocoto, Manzano