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A visual guide to peppers

A visual guide to peppers

  • October 12, 2021

different hot peppers on a boardEating spicy food is like running a marathon. They both hurt while you do them and the next day can be quite painful, too. You have to fight the urge to stop. Crying is natural. Yet you persist knowing that you will enroll again for the same ailment in the future.

The world is cuckoo for chilies. Restaurants compete for the hottest wings, the hottest chili and the most tearful sushi. Competitors on TV shows and YouTube series burn the inside of their mouths for our viewing pleasure. Self-proclaimed pepper heads are always working to bring ever hotter peppers to market. In fact, they are the strongest tongues we have nowthose with ominous names like Carolina Reaper and Trinidad Scorpiondid not develop naturally. They are the result of a systematic crossing designed to create chilies so hot that only the bravest (or the fanciest, depending on your point of view) would dare to try them.

Eating spicy foods satisfies the ingrained human need to test our limits and see how much discomfort we can endure. However, that’s not the only reason we are drawn to spicy foods. The pain they cause seems to stimulate the release of endorphins, a part of the body’s opioid system, which explains why spicy foods “do so well” instead of just hurting you. Capsaicin, the chemical in hot peppers that causes the characteristic stinging sensation, is anti-inflammatory and has numerous health benefits.

Can you feel the burn

Chili, Pepper, Chili Pepper: What’s the Difference?

Sometimes the English language is unnecessarily confusing. This is one of those times.

Chilies all belong to the Capsicum genus, while paprika is a separate plant of the Piper genus. The black pepper and white pepper on your spice rack are pipers. The cayenne pepper and the red pepper flakes next to it, however, are paprika, as are paprika and all fruits (yes, fruits) that we classify in the “chilli peppers” category. Chilli, chilli, and chilli are also all acceptable spellings for members of the Capsicum genus, depending on where you live.

Confused? I’m sorry, but don’t worry. The difference only matters if you’re a botanist or cornered at a party by an incredibly pedantic foodie. For general usage, you can use the terms chilli (chilli), pepper, and chilli pepper interchangeably.

What is the Scoville Scale?

The Scoville scale describes how hot a particular pepper is with a unit of measurement called Scoville Heat Units, or SHU.

In the original method for evaluating peppers, which was developed by the pharmacist and researcher of the same name, Wilbur Scoville, a jury of tasters assess the spiciness of different peppers. Food scientists today use high performance liquid chromatography to measure how many capsaicinoid compounds a pepper contains, but human tasters still give subjective ratings and validate the results.

Bell peppers rated a 0 on the scale. There is no upper limit. Currently, the hottest known pepper in the world, the mysterious-sounding Pepper X, claims more than three million SHU. to have. That would be 600 times hotter than the average jalapeño!

Bell pepper safety

Capsaicin is an oily substance that can burn your skin and mucous membranes if you’re not careful. The best way to avoid chili burns is to:

  • Always wear gloves when cutting hot peppers.
  • Never touch your eyes when cooking with chillies.
  • Wash your hands with dish soap immediately after handling hot peppers.
  • Be careful not to inhale dried and ground (powdered) chili peppers. Chefs who work with chilies at the top of the Scoville scale will even wear respirators!

If you forget your gloves and burn your hands, try washing them with alcohol, vodka, vinegar, baking soda, and / or dish soap. Any of these substances can neutralize and wash away the capsaicin.

The casein in dairy products can also help. Drinking milk or eating yogurt will help reduce mouth pain. You can also soak your burning hands in milk if washing doesn’t help. However, if you are unlucky enough to touch your eyes with chilli hands, the only solution is to flush them thoroughly with water.

Ultimately, however, the best course of action is prevention. Once you’ve burned yourself, these remedies will provide only moderate relief. You will have to live with the pain for a while.

10 types of chili peppers you should know about

Diversity is the spice of life. When it comes to culinary enjoyment, one of the funnest – and possibly most painful – ways to mix it up in the kitchen is to experiment with the seasoning of your food. Here are some chilies you might want to try.

1. Jalapeño peppers

Also known as:

Chipotle pepper (smoked and dried), Chili Gordo (“fat chili”)

How hot are jalapeño peppers?

2,500 – 8,000 SHU

Jalapeño facts:

  • Native to Mexico
  • Used in a wide variety of Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes
  • Not very hot like chili peppers, but enough to add a bit of heat
  • Smooth-skinned fruits that grow to be 5 to 6 inches long
  • Generally eaten green, but you can let them continue to ripen on the plant until they are red

Try these jalapeño recipes:

2. Serrano peppers

Green serrano peppers

How hot are serrano peppers?

10,000 – 23,000 SHU

Serrano Pepper Facts:

  • Native to Mexico
  • Can replace jalapeño peppers in most dishes and vice versa, although serranos are a bit spicier
  • Grows 1 to 4 inches long
  • Usually eaten raw, often in salsas, sauces, and relishes

Try these serrano pepper recipes:

3. Habanero peppers

Orange habanero peppers

How hot are habanero peppers?

100,000 – 350,000 SHU, but it can be even hotter

Habanero Pepper Facts:

  • Originally from South America, but now mainly grown in Mexico
  • Often used in Mexican and Central American cuisines
  • Related to much spicy paprika like Ghost Pepper and Scotch Bonnet
  • Short, plump fruits that are usually 1 to 2 inches long
  • Comes in a variety of interesting colors and flavors, from the traditional orange habanero to the dark purple-brown chocolate habanero
  • Only one habanero pepper provides more than the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.

Try these habanero pepper recipes:

4. Poblano peppers

Also known as:

Ancho chilli (dried)

How hot are Poblano peppers?

1,000 – 2,000 SHU

Poblano pepper facts:

  • Native to Mexico
  • The largest pepper on this list, which grows 3 to 6 inches long and approximately 2 to 3 inches wide
  • Also the mildest pepper on this list
  • Usually eaten cooked, not raw

Try these poblano pepper recipes:

5. Mirasol peppers

red hot mirasol peppers

Also known as:

Guajillo chilli (dried), travieso chilli

How hot are Mirasol peppers?

2,500 – 5,000 SHU

Facts about Mirasol pepper:

  • Originally from Mexico
  • Also grown in Peru and popular in Peruvian cuisine
  • Bright red, thin pepper that grows 3 to 6 inches long
  • Often used dried (as guajillo)
  • Best known as a central ingredient in mole sauce

Try these Mirasol / guajillo pepper recipes:

6. Cayenne pepper

Red cayenne pepper

How hot are cayenne peppers?

30,000 – 50,000 SHU

Cayenne Pepper Facts:

  • Native to French Guiana
  • Bright red, thin, curved pepper that grows 5 to 5 inches long
  • Most commonly used in dried and ground form to bring heat to a wide variety of dishes and kitchens
  • The “red pepper flakes” that you buy in the supermarket or sprinkle on your pizza are most likely cayenne pepper

Try these cayenne pepper recipes:

7. Thai chillies

Red Thai chillies

How hot are Thai chilies?

50,000 – 100,000 SHU

Thai chilli facts:

  • The term “Thai chilli” can usually refer to many different ways Bird’s eye chillies
  • Thin, deep red fruits 1 to 2 inches in length
  • Used both fresh and dried in chili pastes, sauces, stews and curries

Try these Thai chili recipes:

8. Scottish hats

Scotch Bonnet peppers

Also known as:

Caribbean red peppers, bonney peppers, goat peppers, githeyo mirus

How hot are scotch hats?

100,000 – 350,000 SHU

Scottish bonnet facts:

  • Native to the Caribbean
  • Also popular in the Maldives
  • Short, plump pepper grows 1 to 2 inches long
  • Named for its resemblance to Scottish tam o ‘shanter hats
  • Traditionally used to make Jamaican jerk seasoning

Try these scotch bonnet recipes:

9. Ghost peppers

Red and green ghost peppers on the plant

Also known as:

Bhut jolokia

How hot are ghost hoods?

855,000 – more than 1 million SHU

Ghost Pepper Facts:

  • Native to northeast India
  • Red, yellow, orange, or brown pepper 2 to 3 inches long
  • It was once considered the hottest pepper in the world, but has since been beaten by the Trinidad Scorpio Pepper and the Carolina Reaper
  • First pepper to exceed 1 million SHU. was measured
  • Used by the Indian military in “chilli grenades”

Try these ghost pepper recipes:

10. Carolina Reaper

various hot peppers in a bowl including Carolina Reaper

How hot are Carolina Reaper?

1.4 million to 2.2 million SHU

Carolina Reaper facts:

  • Wrinkled, plump red pepper 2 to 3 inches in length with a pointed tail
  • Created by Ed Currie of the Puckerbutt Pepper Company (yes, really)
  • Currently holds the world record for the hottest pepper (as of October 2021)
  • May cause severe burns if consumed raw or handled with bare hands

Try these Carolina Reaper recipes:

Are you serious? Don’t try this at home!

Let us know in the comments: what was the hottest thing you’ve ever eaten? Do you have a favorite chili that didn’t make the list? Maybe the hearty Anaheim, Guindilla Verde or Aji Amarillo?

Original kitchen buffalo

About the author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather of the primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times Bestselling author of The keto reset diet. His latest book is Keto for lifewhere he discusses how to combine the keto diet with a primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of numerous other books, including The original blueprintwho was credited with accelerating the growth of the Primal / Paleo movement in 2009. After three decades of researching and clarifying why food is the key component in achieving and maintaining optimal wellbeing, Mark started Original cuisine, a real food company that makes Primal / Paleo, Keto and Whole30 friendly kitchen staples.

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