15 types of peppers, their origin and spice levels.

15 types of peppers, their origin and spice levels.

Peppers grew only in Latin America back in the day, up until the Spanish and Portuguese explored the New World. These explorers introduced peppers alongside corn, tomatoes and beans to their countries and distributed them to other countries - the spread was like wildfire. Today, peppers have become integral to foods in Africa.

All kinds of peppers introduced by these explorers are part of the genus Capsicum; they include hot varieties known as chilli peppers and sweet varieties such as bell peppers.

The spice level of a pepper is measured using Scoville units: the scale ranges from 0 - like the sweet Bell Peppers - to 3,000,000 - like the spiciest pepper in the world called Carolina Reaper. The Scoville scale is a good base for knowing how hot your chilli peppers are, but the heat varies according to climate and vegetation. 

You can relish the flavour without the mouth-scorching fire by removing the seeds and interior ribs from chilli peppers before cooking them. Don't forget to protect your skin by wearing gloves and never touching your eyes when handling hot peppers.

Here are 15 kinds of peppers with their botanical names and spice levels;

1. Bell Pepper (Tatashe in Nigeria)

Botanical Name: Capsicum annuum

Spice Level: 0

Bell peppers are mostly immaturely green with a slightly bitter flavour. As it matures, it turns bright red and becomes sweeter. You can also find yellow, orange, white, pink, and even purple varieties. With their high water content, bell peppers will add moisture to any dish. They're also great for adding colour.

2. Banana Pepper

Botanical Name: Capsicum annuum

Spice Level: 0 - 500

This mild yet tangy pepper adds a kick to pizza or sandwiches. This pepper usually takes on a bright yellow hue as it ripens but occasionally grows to be red, orange or green instead.

3. Cherry Pepper

Botanical Name: Capsicum frutescens

Spice Level: 500

This lovely pepper is sweet on the outside and the inside. Bright red and shaped like a heart, this large pepper is barely spicy and makes up for its lack of spice with a sweet, succulent flavour. You'll commonly find cherry peppers chopped and stuffed into green olives.

4. Shishito

Botanical Name:  Capsicum annuum var. grossum

Spice Level: 50 - 200

 Harvested while still green, these thin-walled peppers can be pan-seared and eaten on their own. They can also be added to pizza or flavour dishes. The riper the shishito, the spicier the pepper.

5. Piquillo Pepper

Botanical Name:  Capsicum annuum

Spice Level: 500 - 1,000

Similar to red bell pepper, it can be used to cook many dishes. However, it is thinner, sweeter, and more delicate than a bell pepper. The possibilities with how to cook piquillo peppers are endless. It can be deliciously stuffed with tuna, goat cheese, chicken or even crab.

6. Poblano Pepper (Tatashe in Nigeria)

Botanical Name: Capsicum annuum

Spice Level: 1,000 - 2,000

Also known as Ancho, the poblano is common in Mexican dishes such as chiles Rellenos. At maturity, the poblano turns dark red-brown and can be dried, at which point it's referred to as an ancho or mulato. Anchos have a rich, raisin-like sweetness. The high yield of flesh to skin makes anchos great for sauces.

7. Anaheim Pepper 

Botanical Name: Capsicum annuum

Spice Level: 500 - 2,500

Popular in salsas and dishes from the American Southwest, Anaheim pepper is relatively mild and very versatile. When mature, it turns deep red and is referred to as a chile Colorado or California red chile. 


8. Jalapeno Pepper

Botanical Name: Capsicum annuum

Spice Level: 3,500 - 8,000

Mexican pepper is typically plucked from the vine while still green. If left to ripen more, they will turn red and take on a slightly fruity flavour. Jalapeños are a tasty ingredient commonly used in salsa and sauces. Smoky, woodsy, and spicy, jalapenos are the perfect ingredient for salsas, sauces, escabeche, and adobo.

9. Ghost Pepper

Botanical Name: Capsicum chinense

Spice Level: 1, 000, 000+

One of the hottest edible peppers in the world, the ghost pepper hails from Northeastern India with more than 1 million Scoville units. It's approximately half as hot as the pepper spray used by law enforcement but 100 times spicier than a jalapeno. 

10. Serrano Pepper

Botanical Name: Capsicum annuum

Spice Level: 6,000 - 23,000

Common in Mexican and Thai cooking, Serranos can be cooked in their ripe and unripe states. The smaller the pepper, the hotter it is. When ripened, they get red or yellowish orange. 

11. Scotch Bonnet (Ata-Rodo in Nigeria)

Botanical Name: Capsicum chinense

Spice Level: 80,000–400,000

Scotch bonnet is the hottest pepper in the Caribbean and is used to flavour various African dishes, including chicken. Though the pepper is often spicy, you will occasionally find a sweet variety called cachucha.

12. Habanero Pepper (Ata-Rodo in Nigeria)

Botanical Name: Capsicum chinense

Spice Level: 150,000 - 350,000

In the same family as the Scotch Bonnet, Habanero is one of the hottest peppers. It also has a fruity flavour after the spice fades. It's popular on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and in the Caribbean, where hot sauces are made.

13. Cayenne Pepper (Ata-Sombo in Nigeria)

Botanical Name: Capsicum chinense

Spice Level: 30,000 - 50,000

Slender and tapered, this chile is probably most familiar in its dried, ground form—the powder known as cayenne pepper. Ground cayenne pepper is the main ingredient in the chilli powder that flavours Tex-Mex dishes such as chilli con Carne. It's one of the spiciest types of peppers!

14. Rocoto Pepper

Botanical Name: Capsicum chinense

Spice Level: 100,000 - 250,000

This South American pepper looks like miniature bell pepper, and, like bell pepper, can come in shades of orange, yellow and red. The hottest rocotos are typically yellow, but red rocotos are the most common. Inside, the pepper has unique black seeds. It's sometimes referred to as the hairy pepper thanks to its furry leaves. Rocoto has a crisp and fruity flavour.

15. Piri Piri (Dry Pepper in Nigeria)

Botanical Name: Capsicum frutescens

Spice Level: 50,000 - 175,000

Also known as bird's eyes, its source is the Portuguese-African method of cooking prawns, chicken, or anything else in this sauce. Though it's a relatively small pepper, growing only one to two inches, it packs quite a punch.



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