Pepper Varieties & Species
Pepper Varieties & Species - the many different types / kinds of hot peppers!
There are thousands of varieties of peppers worldwide! They come in
a wide range of colors, flavors, shapes, heat levels and sizes.
From small compact plants, to giant monsters that can get over 9 feet tall,
with peppers ranging in size from a tiny fraction of an inch to
over a foot long, and coming in nearly every color of the rainbow!
All chile peppers are various species of the genus Capsicum of the
plant family Solanaceae, and are thus related to eggplants and
tomatoes (They are not related to black pepper, which comes from
the family Piperaceae.)
There are currently over thirty different known species of
chile pepper. The majority of these are actually "wild" pepper species
(found growing primarily in South America), including the
C. cardenasii, C. eximium and C. chacoense.
Only five of the pepper species are widely domesticated.
They are -
C. annuum (meaning "annual", a misnomer, as peppers are
This is by far the largest domesticated species,
both in the number of different varieties, as well as the most widely
cultivated worldwide. This species includes a wide range of
pepper shapes, sizes and characteristics.
Flowers are typically white but some varieties are purple,
peppers most often ripen green to red, but come in a
variety of other colors as well.
Most of the peppers grow in the US and Mexico are of this species.
They include many of the most common and best-known pepper varieties,
Bell Pepper, Peperoncini and Anaheim/NuMex Peppers.
This species also includes some of the more unique pepper
varieties, such as the unusual Peter Pepper, as well as the
C. baccatum (meaning "berry-like")
This unusual species is grown primarily in South America,
where it is referred to locally as "Aji".
Characterized by diffuse yellow or green spots on
the base of the corolla lobes (flower petals).
Plants are fairly tall for peppers, up to about 5 feet.
The peppers can range in size from small berries for some wild varieties,
to over a foot in length,
are often brightly colored and quite flavorful.
This species includes such peppers as the Aji Amarillo,
Aji Colorado, Aji Andean and Lemon Drop.
C. chinense (meaning "from China", a misnomer,
as they originated in the Amazon)
This species includes some of the world's hottest peppers.
Peppers in this species come in a wide
variety of colors, and often have distinctive tropical flavors.
They are characterized by multiple flowers per node,
typically have an annular constriction where the pedicel meets the
fruit, and crinkled leaves.
Most peppers in this species are extremely hot (one notable exception
to this rule is Aji Dulce, which has the habanero flavor but with
little or no heat!)
The flowers are typically small and white, with a fruity scent.
While quite hot, these peppers
can also show some of the greatest variance in heat levels
based on environmental
growing conditions and other factors (sometimes even
between different peppers of the same plant!) This species includes
Habanero, Scotch Bonnet,
Datil, Fatalii, and Billy Goat.
C. frutescens (meaning "bushy")
Not as many varieties of this exists or are domestically grown as some of the
other pepper species. They are characterized by compact growth, and
can make good container plants. The peppers tend to grow upright rather
than pendant and are usually red, orange or yellow.
This species includes the world-famous
Tabasco Pepper, as well as
the Zimbabwe Bird Pepper, the Cambodian Angkor Sunrise and
the Brazilian Malagueta.
C. pubescens (meaning "hairy")
These rare peppers are characterized by "furry" leaves, as well as
unusually-shaped black or dark brown seeds which are unique to this
They grow primarily in the mountainous regions
of Central and South America.
They are used to temperate climates, and
can be more cold-tolerant than some peppers,
although some varieties off this species may not do well in
The peppers are also unusual,
thick-walled and often shaped like small apples or ovals,
and come in red,
yellow and orange colors, with flowers that are typically purple.
With proper growing conditions,
they can get quite tall, up to 9' or more!
They also have a unique capsaicinoid
content which gives them a different flavor and "heat" than other
peppers, some varieties
can seem to taste even hotter than
a habanero! This species includes Peruvian Rocotos,
Bolivian Locotos and Mexican Manzanos.
Pepper Variety Names
Pepper variety names are not all standardized and can sometimes
seem a bit perplexing.
Sometimes the same pepper may be called by different names,
depending on where it is grown, it's condition,
and how it is prepared (this is particularly true for Mexican varieties).
For example, the exact same pepper is called a Poblano
when used fresh, and Ancho when dried.
Jalapeno Pepper, when smoked, is called a Chipotle Pepper.
In addition to species and variety names, peppers are also
broadly categorized as either sweet peppers or hot peppers.
Sweet peppers (a misnomer, not all are sweet) refers to those
without any heat, typically used for flavoring,
cooking or stuffing. Examples include Bell Pepper,
Apple Pepper and Lipstick Pepper.
Hot peppers refer to those that taste hot, and can range from the
relatively mild Anaheim to the blazingly hot Habanero.
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