Chillies all belong to the various species in the genus Capsicum as do the sweet bell peppers which are merely large chillies with no heat. There are five cultivated species of chilli, as well as many wild chilli species, some of which are cultivated by enthusiasts.
Capsicum annuum is the most widely grown species, and the most diverse in shape and colour. Familiar cultivars are Jalapeño, Cayenne, and the bell peppers. Easy to grow and well suited to the beginner.
Capsicum baccatum chillies are renowned for their fruity flavours; Lemon Drop, a selection of Kellu Uchu being the best known cultivar. The plants are generally tall growing with an open habit. Most are considered easy to grow and yield well if you have the space.
Capsicum chinense chillies are hugely popular in the Caribbean, with every island having its own range of cultivars, both hot and mild. Habaneros and Scotch Bonnets are the best known types. Plants are compact and productive, but need plenty of warmth to get started.
Capsicum frutescens chillies are esteemed for their dry smoky flavour. The species has been made famous by the cultivar Tabasco and the sauce made from it. Plants tend to be of medium size, but need a long growing season.
Capsicum pubescens is a very different species, with purple flowers and very fleshy chillies wth black seeds. They are generally known as Rocotos. Native to more mountainous regions than the other species, rocotos are cold tolerant but need high light levels.
The wild Capsicum species are much less well known, but contain many fascinating chillies for the enthusiast.
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