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Chilli Facts

Chilli History: Chillis, come in all shapes, sizes and colours ranging from tiny pointed extremely hot, birds eye chilli to the large mild fleshy peppers like the anaheim. Indigenous to Central and South America and the West Indies, facts1they have been cultivated there for thousands of years before the Spanish conquest, which eventually introduced them to the rest of the world. Mexican cooking is one of the worlds oldest cuisines, the explorers of the New World brought back the tomatoes and peppers, red hot chillis, avocados, various beans, vanilla and chocolate, these flavours were to change the flavour of Europe.
Today there are probably 400 different chillis grown, and are one of the most widely cultivated crops today, grown from the Far East, China, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia to India to Mexico. Some of the more commonly available fresh chillis include jalapeño, serrano, poblano, yellow wax, birds eye, habarnero and cayenne are now being stocked by many stores and markets. If you cannot find the required chilli called for in a recipe try substituting with one of similar size and heat scale, or grow your own as they are as easy to grow as tomatoes especially in a greenhouse in pots. In the next few pages different varieties can be seen accompanied by a picture with recipes, sauces, snacks and growing advice and also where to purchase the seeds or chillis.

Scoville Units
Variety Scoville Units
Pure Capsaicin 15,000,000 - 16, 000,000
US Police Pepper Spray 5,000,000
Carolina Reaper 2,200,000
Morouga Scorpion 2,009,231
Trinidad Scorpion "Butch T" 1,463,700
Naga Viper Pepper 1,382,117
Infinity Pepper 1,176,182
Bhut Jolokia Pepper 1,041,427
Dorset Naga Pepper 923,000
Red Savina Pepper 350,000 - 580,000
Scotch Bonnet 100,000 - 325,000
Jamaican Hot Pepper 100,000 - 200,000
Rocoto Pepper 50,000 - 100,000
Pequin Pepper 75.000
Super Chilli Pepper 40,000 - 50,000
Cayenne Pepper 30,000 - 50,000
Tabasco Pepper 30,000 - 50,000
de Arbol Pepper 15,000 - 30,000
Aji Pepper 12,000 - 30,000
Serrano pepper 5,000 - 23,000
Hot Wax Pepper 5,000 - 10,000
Chipotle 5,000 - 10,000
Jalapeno Pepper 2,500 - 8,000
Guajilla Pepper 2,500 - 5,000
Tabasco Sauce 2,500
Pasilla Pepper 1,000 - 2,000
Ancho Pepper 1,000 - 2,000
Anaheim Pepper 500 - 2,500
Nu Mex Pepper 500 - 1,000
Santa Fe Grande Pepper 500 - 700
Pimento Pepper 100 - 500
Bell Pepper 0
Chilli Heat: In 1912 Wibur Scoville (1845-1942) developed a method for measuring the strength of capsicum in a given pepper, which originally meant tasting a diluted version of a pepper and giving it a value. Nowadays it can be done more accurately with the help of computers to rate the peppers in Scoville units, which indicate parts per million of capsaicin. The fiery sensation of chillis is caused by capsaicin, a potent chemical that survives both cooking and freezing, but apart from the burning sensatscovilleion it also triggers the brain to produce endorphins, natural painkillers that promote a sense of well being.
The Scoville scale begins at zero with the mild bell peppers. Until about year 2000 the Guinness World Records had the world’s hottest chilli pepper as the Red Savina Habanero. Generally these peppers range from 350,000–570,000 Scoville Units as compared with a score of 2,500–5,000 for the jalapeno pepper. The record breaking pepper was produced by GNS Spices Inc in 1994 in Walnut, US and measured at 577,000 Scoville units. Recently however several super-hot peppers have challenged for the record. Experts at the Defence Research Laboratory in the army garrison town of Tezpur in the North-Eastern state of Assam, claimed a locally grown Naga Jolokia was nearly 50 per cent more pungent than the Red Savina Habanero at a blistering 855,000 Scoville units. Seeds of the same Naga-Bih Jolokia pepper (sometimes also called the Bhut Jolokia) cultivated at New Mexico State University have stood-up to testing and in February 2007 a specimen registering a staggering 1,001,304 Scoville heat units was officially acclaimed by the Guinness World Record as the new worlds hottest pepper. Naga Jolokia is nearly twice as hot as the previous holder, the Red Savina. This has now been overtaken with various crosses of the Trinidad Scorpion and the Naga, giving the Infinity, Naga Viper and the Trinidad Scorpion"Butch T". Heat scales are still going up, as of Nov 2013 the Carolina Reaper has just had a top scale of 2,200,000 SHU confirmed and is currently the hottest in the Guiness Book of records.
Chilli Species

Chilli Species: Capsicum terminology can be confusing. Pepper, chili, chile, chilli and capsicum are used interchangeably to describe the plants the pods the cooking of the genus Capsicum. I have chosen to use chilli throughout this site so I don't want any protesting from Southwest and Latin America where you would prefer 'chile,' or 'pepper' as would probably be used in the States.

Here is a quick guide to the naming. The genus is Capsicum from the Greek kapto, 'to bite' and then there are five species:

  • annuum, meaning "annual," which is an incorrect designation, include most of the common types like Nu Mex, Jalapeño, Bels and Waxes.
  • baccatum, meaning "berrylike," which consist of the South American chillis known as ajís.
  • chinense, meaning "from China," which is also an incorrect designation, this species include the habanero's.
  • frutescens, meaning "shrubby or bushy," includes the Tabasco's .
  • pubescens, meaning "hairy," and includes the rocotos.

Capsicum annuum is the most extensively cultivated throughout the world and because it cross pollinates so easily there are probably thousands of varieties existing. Annuums are really divided into two categories: sweet (or mild) and hot. Too many leaf variations to describe but flower corollas are white with no spots. Popular annuums include:

  • Ancho, Anaheim
  • Big Bertha, Bolivian Rainbow,
  • Cayenne, Cherry Bomb, Cayenne, Cubanelle, Chimayó, Chiltepin
  • Fresno, Fiesta, Firecracker
  • Goat Horn
  • Hungarian Yellow Wax
  • Jalapeño, Jaloro
  • Nu Mex
  • Mulato, Mirasol
  • Peter Pepper, Peruvian Purple, Pasilla, Piemento. Poblano
  • Spur, Super Chili, Santa Fe Grande, Sweet Banana
  • Thai Hot

Capsicum Baccatum originated in Peru or Bolivia and are now found throughout South America. The plants are tall up to five foot with large dark green leaves. This species is distinguished from the other species by the flower corollas being white with distinctive dark green or brown spots, and anthers being yellow or tan. Fruity flavour being used in salsas or dried and ground into powders. Types include:

  • Ají
  • Brazilian Starfish
  • Piquanté (Brand name Pepperdew)

Capsicum chinense is often referred to as Habanero but there are hundreds of similar pod types. Originating from the Amazon into the Caribbean and then spreading into Central and South America. Growing from 1 to 5 feet high with pale to medium green large and wrinkled leaves. Flowers have white to greenish corollas and purple anthers and filaments. Slow growers with a long season. Most Countries have their own name for the chinense

  • Habanero
  • Congo Pepper
  • Goat pepper
  • Scotch Bonnet
  • Ají Limo
  • Ají dulce
  • Datil
  • Fatalii
  • Red Savina
  • Madame Jeanette
  • Naga Jolokia

Capsicum frutescens coming from the Amazon basin in Brazil and the Mexican city of Tabasco, hence the most recognizable one being the Tabasco. Now finding their way to India and the Far East where they are called bird pepper. Bushy type of plant growing to 4 feet, with smooth oval leaves up to 2.5 inches. Flowers have greenish white corollas with no spots and blue anthers, erect pods up to 1.5 inches long. Makes good pot plants.

  • Tabasco
  • African birdseye
  • Malagueta
  • Thai pepper
  • Demon Red

Capsicum pubescens originates in Bolivia, now being cultivated from the Andes to Mexico and Central America. The common name for this species is rocoto. Sprawling plant up to 4 feet high and two foot wide with oval light to dark green leaves being up to 3 inches long and very hairy. Flowers have purple corollas, purple anthers and stand erect above the leaves. Hardy plants with a long growing season. As the pods are so fleshy they are usually eaten fresh in salsas or stuffed but they are very hot.

  • Manzano Amerillo
  • Manzanoi Rojo
  • Rocoto
Chilli Health
Chilli Health: Chillis are loaded with vitamin A, a potent antioxidant and boost to the immune system. As the podshealth pic mature and darken, high quantities of vitamin C are gradually replaced with beta carotene and the capsaicin levels are at their highest. Due to these capsaicin levels, some believe that eating chillis may have an extra thermic affect, temporarily speeding up the metabolic rate, hence burning off calories at a faster rate. Whatever, you certainly do sweat and actually cool down in hot climates as sweat evaporates. Your nose runs, your head clears ... you can breath! And with that extra flow of saliva, the gastric juices also flow. The alkaloids from the capsaicin stimulate the action of stomach and intestine improving the whole digestion process!

health pic2Beyond soothing gastric wonders and taste delights, the very nature of fiery capsaicin has been medicinally beneficial down through the ages and put to use for some chronic health woes. These same heat inducing properties have a cumulative effect and over time are believed to alleviate pain when used in transdermal treatments for arthritis, nerve disorders (neuralgia), shingles and severe burns ... even cluster headaches. The mucus thinning properties promote coughing and can act as an expectorant for asthmatic conditions. Other claims are boosts to the immune system due to the antioxidants, lowering cholesterol, and blood thinning properties beneficial for the heart and blood vessels.

Worlds Hottest Chillis

newspaperNewspaper article 05/09/2000: The hottest chilli on Earth is Indian, claim four scientists. They say that the pepper called Naga Jolokia from the north-eastern area of Assam where it is grown has beaten the Mexican Red Savina Habanero, widely-acclaimed as the hottest. The scientists from the Tezpur laboratory reported 855,000 Scoville units of pure capsaicin (the scale of heat in chillis). The scale is named after German scientist Wilbur Scoville, who first measured heat in chillis see details below). Although the chilli is thought to be a relative of the habanero these tests are thought to be faulty.

alanNewspaper article 24/02/2001: The Hottest thing around, at last people are beginning to wake up to the fact how easy chillis are to grow, not only that but they are also fun and easy plants to care for as this article points out. Its about time the chilli gets recognized in the UK and a better name for itself, the Americans have been eating and enjoying all types of varieties for years. You can start picking green chillis as soon as they're big enough although if you let them ripen you will get their full fiery flavour. To lessen the heat remove the seeds and pith, one tip mentioned is to put surplus chilli seeds in with peanuts you put out for the birds as this should stop squirrels pinching them, the birds don't notice, but squirrels aren't into chillis just yet. There is also loads of other chilli dishes available apart from just chilli con carne using all the different varieties for different flavours and strengths from pickling to eating raw or stuffed or stewed to even chilli ice cream, which is highly spoken of by enthusiasts, it must be interesting to try.

timesThe Times Newspaper article 01/04/2006: The world’s hottest chilli pepper does not come from a tropical hot spot where the local’s are impervious to it’s fiery heat but a smallholding in deepest Dorset, Uk. Some chilli’s are fierce enough to make your eyes water. Anyone foolhardy enough to eat a whole Dorset Naga would almost certainly require hospital treatment. The pepper, almost twice as hot as the previous record holder, was grown by Joy and Michael Michaud in a polytunnel at their market garden. The couple run a business called Peppers by Post and spent four years developing the Dorset Naga. They knew the2 cm-long specimens were hot because they had to wear gloves and remove the seeds outdoors when preparing them for drying, but had no idea they had grown a record breaker. Some customers complained the peppers were so fiery that even half a small one would make a curry too hot to eat. Others loved them and last year the Michauds sold a quarter of a million of them. At the end of the season they sent a sample to a Lab in America out of curiosity. They were stunned when the Dorset Naga gave a reading of nearly 900,000SHU. A fresh sample was then sent to a lab in New York used by the American Spice Trade Association and they recorded a record mouth numbing 923,000SHU’s. Mrs Michaud said ‘The man in the first lab was so excited he’d never had one half as hot as that. The second lab took a long time because they were checking it carefully as it was so outrageously high. The Dorset Naga was grown from a plant that originated in Bangladesh. The Michauds bought their original plant in an oriental store in Bournemouth, UK ‘we were’t even selecting the peppers for hotness but for shape and flavour when the test results came back we were gob smacked’
The couple are now seeking Plant Variety Protection DEFRA which will mean that no one else can sell the seeds.
Anyone wanting to try the chillis will have to be patient as they are harvested only from July on. In Bangladesh the chillis grow in temperatures of well over 100F (38C) but in Dorset they thrive in poly tunnels. Aktar Miha from the Indus Bangladesh restaurant in Bournemouth said that even in it’s home country it is treated with respect. ‘It is used in some cooking mainly in Fish curry’s but most people don’t cook with it . They hold it by the stalk and just touch their food with it ‘ he said. It has a refreshing smell and a very good taste but you don’t want to much of it. It is a killer chilli and you have to be careful and wash your hands and the cutting board. If you don’t know what you are doing it could blow your head off.

Dorset NagaspacerDorset Naga is one of the hottest chillies in the world. Like all chillies, however its heat level is strongly influenced by growing conditions, so though Dorset Naga fruit will always be extraordinarily hot, there is no guarantee every crop will reach such an astronomical level. The scorching heat of the fruit is combined with a distinctive fruity aroma, making this a truly exceptional chilli. The wrinkled, wedge-shaped fruit ripen from green to red, and can be harvested at either stage of maturity. They can be up to 20 to 30 mm wide at the shoulders and 40 to 50 mm long, but can be smaller when the plants are grown in pots. The plants are tall and ungainly; when given plenty of light and grown in the ground – where root growth is unrestricted – they can reach 1.5 metres or more. When grown in pots, however, their height can be considerably reduced, with smaller pots producing small plants. PLEASE NOTE: Dorset Naga is a late maturing, difficult chilli to grow, even for a habanero, and novices may be disappointed with their results. There are two particular times in the plants' development – germination and pollination – that require special attention. Instructions are sent with all packs of Dorset Naga, and we strongly recommend that they are followed. For more information about Dorset Naga see the website: www.dorsetnaga.biz

bhutjolokia2007: The Naga Jolokia also known variously by other names in its native region, sometimes Bhut jolokia, is a chili pepper recognized as the hottest in the world. The pepper is occasionally called the ghost chilli in the U.S. The Naga Jolokia is an interspecific hybrid from the Assam region of northeastern India and parts of neighbouring Bangladesh. It grows in the Indian states of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur, and the Sylhet region of Bangladesh. It can also be found in rural Sri Lanka where it is known as Nai Mirris (Cobra Chilli). There was initially some confusion and disagreement about whether the Naga was a Capsicum frutescens or a Capsicum chinense pepper, but DNA tests showed it to be an interspecies hybrid, mostly C. chinense with some C. frutescens genes. In 2007, Guinness World Records certified the Naga Jolokia as the world's hottest chili pepper, 401.5 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.

infinityspacerThe Sun Newspaper article 01/04/2010: The Infinity chilli is hotter than the Bhut Jolokia chilli, the former record holder, which is used by the Indian military to make hand grenades to immobilise terrorist suspects. Tests by Warwick University rate the Infinity chilli at 1,067,286 on the Scoville Scale which is used to measure the heat of peppers. The Bhut Jolokia chilli is measured at 1,041,427. A jalapeño measures just 2,500 to 5,000. Weapons-grade pepper spray is 2,000,000. This variety is named Infinity for its "never-ending" burn, which cannot be quelled by even the best antidote, milk.
Update September 2010: The ChilliPepperPete Naga piped the Infinity with 1,086,844 SHU, but now the Infinity is back with new results for the 2010 crop, it has a whopping 1,176,182 SHU, that is almost 100,000 hotter that anything else tested before.

nagaviperThe Daily Mail Newspaper article 28/12/2010: The world’s hottest chilli does not hail from India, Thailand or Mexico but now from a small greenhouse in Cumbria. It was created by crossing three of the hottest varieties of chilli pods known to man. The Naga Viper rates an astonishing 1,359,000 on the Scoville scale. The result is a record breaking chilli that will make your eyes stream, throat burn, nose run and much, much worse. Experts at Warwick University carried out tests on the chilli and officially declared it the hottest. Creator, Gerald Fowler, a full-time chilli farmer for five years, said: ‘When they grow chilli in India or the Caribbean they’re used to the heat and the drought. When they’re grown over here I think they fight back against the harsher climate and produce even more heat. The most popular chilli – Jalapeno – measures a pitiful 2,500 to 5,000 on the Scoville scale. Mr Fowler’s Naga Viper is more than 270 times hotter and trumps the previous world record holder. Mr Fowler crossed the Bhut Jolokia, with two other varieties, the Naga Morich and Trinidad Scorpion, and grew the plants in his 8ft by 16ft heated greenhouse.

butch Tspacer 01/03/2011: Trinidad Scorpion "Butch T" is a chilli pepper that has been measured as the world's hottest. The pepper is a particular strain of the Trinidad Scorpion, which originated in Trinidad and Tobago. It is named after Butch Taylor who is responsible for propagating the pepper's seeds. The "Scorpion" peppers are referred to as such because the pointed end of the pepper is said to resemble a scorpion's stinger. The first few pods to be tested, and while they knew they were hot, they were astonished at the results with the interim results showing a whopping 1,463,700 SHU’s.

MorougaScorpionFeb 2012 Moruga Scorpion The test results from New Mexico State Univsityer provided 3 results, a High, Mean and Low Scoville Units, which would seem to be a more stable overall result. Data showed that two individual plants for the Moruga Scorpion exceeded the 2 million Scoville, and the first chilli to do so.

Record MorougaResults

Carolina Reaperspacer Nov 2013 Carolina Reaper The hottest chilli is Smokin Ed's 'Carolina Reaper', grown by The PuckerButt Pepper Company (USA), which rates at an average of 1,569,300 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), according to tests conducted by Winthrop University in South Carolina, USA, throughout 2012.

Guiness World Record Quote "We are delighted to confirm that you have successfully achieved a new GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title for ’Hottest chilli’. We would like to congratulate you on your record-breaking achievement. With a Guinness-submitted 1,569,383 SHU (scoville heat units) average and recently measured peak levels of over 2,200,000 SHU, SMOKIN’ ED’S CAROLINA REAPERĀ® has officially completed its long journey to the top of “super-hot” chili charts."

Guinness World Chilli Records


The most jalapeno chilli peppers eaten in one minute is 16 by Alfredo Hernandes (USA) at the La Costeña Feel the Heat Challenge in Chicago, IL, USA on 17 September 2006.

The longest chilli-pepper string measured 1,395 m (4,576 ft 9 in) and was made by citizens of Suncheon City, South Korea, on 11 October 2008.