Chillies - Capsicum annuum example


I love chillies. I love learning about chillies, I love growing chillies, I love looking at chillies, I love photographing chillies and I love eating chillies.

I could write a whole treatise on them, but I will try and contain myself to a few salient facts.


Species of Chillies

There are in fact five species of chillies in the genus Capsicum.

  • Annuum – this is the most common, and the least hot. It includes the large so-called sweet peppers.
  • Frutescens – includes the ‘Tabasco’ pepper, used to make Tabasco sauce.
  • Baccatum- my least favourite. I find they have a rather acrid flavour.
  • Pubescens- orange or red fruit, round and about the size of a tomato. The leaves are hairy (that is what pubescens means) and the seeds black.
  • Chinense-my favourite, and the hottest! These include the infamous Dorset Naga, Scotch bonnets and habaneros.

Some Chilli Facts

  • Chillies originated in South America
  • The heat comes from the chemical ‘capcisin’.
  • Birds are immune to the heat of chillies (but please don’t experiment on your budgie.)
  • The main heat is not in the seeds, but in the membrane surrounding the seeds (the placenta.)
  • The smaller and pointier, generally the hotter the chilli.

Growing Chillies

Chillies are really easy to grow from seed. And fun! Sow the seeds indoors late February, and plant out after the risk of frosts. They like sun and warmth. And to develop fruit, they like to be fed with a liquid feed. They are also largely self-pollinating.

Cooking with Chillies

I find chillies enhance pretty much any savoury dish. I mentioned above that my favourite chilli species is chinense, which are also the hottest. To be perfectly honest, most are too hot except to be use in accompaniments such as harissa or chilli oil.

By chance a few years ago I came across two varieties, Trinidad and Numex, which are much less hot. Numex is about as hot as a mild ‘ordinary’ chilli (species annuum.) Trinidad is virtually not hot at all, but still has the delicious apply citrusy flavour characteristic of habanero chillies.


Trinidad starts green, and ripens with enough sun to vermilion. The flavour is delicate, and I find rather destroyed by cooking so I prefer to use these thinly sliced, in salads, or sprinkled on Thai or Mexican food as a garnish.



About ten years ago I came across a dwarf chilli with purple leaves and flowers, and purple fruit that ripen to orange-red. Whilst the fruits are perfectly edible (and hot), the plants look stunning in pots, or planted in a sunny border.


Free Seeds

On a strictly first come first served basis, I have limited number of seeds available. Send me your address in a ‘comment’, and I will send you five seeds of each, along with growing instructions, while stocks last.
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