10 Facts About Chillies!

Here are 10 facts about my favourite fruit, the Chilli! Here’s a small bonus fact…a chilli is in fact a fruit!

1. How do you spell Chili, Chilli, Chile?

One of the earliest records of the name is in a Nahuatl (An Aztec language) dictionary from the 16th century where is is spelled ‘chilli’. [1]

Today, ‘chilli’ is spelled many different ways depending on your location. In America is is spelled chili. In the UK, South Africa, India, Australia, Singapore and many other countries it is spelled chilli. In Spanish speaking countries and some parts of the US, it is spelled chile.

Why do people call chillies, peppers?

Chillies and black pepper have very little in common. Chillies are part of the genus Capsicum, while pepper is part of the genus Piper.

The reason people call chillies peppers is thanks to Christopher Columbus.

Back in the 1400’s, black pepper or peppercorns were hugely expensive and were even used as currency in many countries. Columbus’ patrons, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, told him that second only to gold they wanted black pepper. When he landed in the Caribbean, Christopher was introduced to chillies. Being commercially minded, he had the idea that spicy chillies were comparable to black pepper.

Columbus wrote that chillies were more valuable than the black pepper because they could be grown and attained much easier.

He returned to Spain with Chillies which were then grown in the Spanish monasteries, mostly ornamentally. But before long it was used  as a cheap substitute for black pepper in many dishes. Within a few decades chillies spread throughout Europe.

2. How Many Chilli Species and Varieties?

There are more than 50 Species of chillies! The five most common are Annuum (Serrano, Jalapeno), Baccatum (Peppadew, Bert the Chilli, Sugar Rush Stripey), Chinense (Habanero, Scotch Bonnet, Carolina Reaper), Frutescens (Piri Piri, Tabasco) and Pubescens (Rocoto, Manzano).

There are more than 50,000 pepper varieties. And more are created every year! Do you want to learn about making your  own new chilli variety?

There are 38 species and more than 7000 varieties of chillies listed in SeedsIO!

3. Are Bell Peppers Chillies?

Bell Peppers are Chillies! Common Bell Peppers are part of the Capsicum Annuum species, which are part of the Capsicum Genus. All plants in this Genus are chillies!

4. Green, Yellow, Orange and Red Bell Peppers?

Green Bell Peppers, Yellow Bell Peppers, Orange Bell Peppers and Red Bell Peppers They are all the same thing, sort of! Green Peppers are just the unripe version of the Red, Yellow and Orange Bell Peppers. This is why Green Bell Peppers are often cheaper than their ripe counterparts, because it can take a month for them to fully ripen.

5. How Long Have we Farmed Chillies?

Chillies were first cultivated in South America more than 8000 years ago! Wild, smaller chilli varieties were being picked well before 8000BC in Mexico. In fact, until 1492, chillies only existed on the American continent! You can thank Christopher Columbus for spreading them around the world..

6. Black Chilli Seeds!?

Not all chilli seeds are white! Chillies from the Capsicum Pubescens Species of chillies are black!

Capsicum Pubescens is so named because of the hairy leaves and stems of these plants. They are a wonderful plant to grow with unique characteristics. The fruit pack a spicy punch but are sweet and juicy too!

7. Jalapenos are Green, Right?

Jalapenos ripen to red! Many people think that Jalapenos are green when ripe, because this is the way they are most commonly eating. Ripe red Jalapenos are used to make Sriracha. Originally the Huy Fong brand of Sriracha was actually made using ripe red serranos, but because they are easier to harvest, your favourite rooster Sriracha is made exclusively with Jalapenos.

Green and Red Jalapeno

8. How Hot?

Carolina Reapers

The hottest chilli in the world according to Guinness World Records is the Carolina Reaper at 2.2 million Scoville, although there are arguably hotter chillies than this! Pure Capsaicin, the stuff that makes a chilli spicy, is rated at 16 million Scoville. However there is something that makes capsaicin seem like a wimp. I am talking about resiniferatoxin, or RTX. It is in a cactus-like plant that grows in Morocco. On the Scoville scale it is rated at 16 BILLION Scoville. That is 1,000 times hotter than pure capsaicin! 

9. Chilli Peppers Are Healthy For You!

Eating spicy chillies has been shown to have health benefits. They are rich in Vitamin C, B6 K1, Potassium Copeper and Beta Carotene (which your body converts to Vitamin A), Contrary to popular believe, chillies won’t give you heartburn or stomach ulcers. In fact a study showed that regular consumption of spicy chillies reduced heartburn caused by acid reflux, and also may protect the stomach from developing ulcers in the first place. Studies have even shown that people that eat chillies have reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease or cancer.

10. Spicy Chillies Don’t ACTUALLY Burn You!

The capsaicin binds with your pain receptors which makes it feel like burning. The good news is that your body can become desensitized to this pain over time so your spice threshold increases! The bad news is, this desensitization goes away after a few days. This is why I still get nervous when eating some of the superhot chillies that I grow, even after doing so for decades!

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