A chile pepper refers to any of the many species and cultivars of hot peppers in the family of nightshade. Most of them are native to the United States and Mexico. Yet, they all thrive in warm climates around the world. The most common cultivar of chili peppers is the Capsicum annuum, which includes jalapeño, serrano, cayenne, and Thai chile peppers. However, the cultivar Capsicum chinense contains the hottest peppers around. This includes the number one hottest pepper in the world, Carolina Reaper, along with habanero, ghost chili, or bhut jolokia. Another cultivar is the Capsicum frutescens, which includes the famous tabasco, peri-peri, and some of the pepperoncini peppers.
Nevertheless, chile peppers can be eaten raw, cooked, dried, or smoked. They are an essential ingredient in chili powders, hot sauces, and any meals that require heat. And speaking of heat, chile peppers can provide as much as 2.2 million Scoville units. The substances that give peppers their heat are called capsaicin, while the related compounds are known as capsaicinoids.
Most of these fruits have been in existence since 7,500 BC. As a matter of fact, they are one of the oldest crops in the United States, especially in Central and South America. The Mexico-origin varieties trace back to about 60 centuries ago.
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade)
Genus: Capsicum (Pepper)
Binomial Name: Varied
Chile Pepper Trivia
- Explorer Christopher Columbus, along with his troops, were the first Europeans to encounter the genus. They call them “peppers” in reference to the spicy Piper genus that we commonly know as peppercorns.
- The Portuguese traders were the ones who introduced the genus in Asia. They promoted its commerce in the routes of the Asian spice trade.
- Some chile peppers have different names when they’re processed. For example, a dried jalapeño pepper is called chipotle while dried poblano pepper is called ancho chile.