The Chilli Guru™

Wild Capsicum species

There are about 31 species of Capsicum, but only five are regarded as cultivated. The exact number of recognised species changes periodically depending on which taxonomist last worked on the genus. There are several clades or groups which are closely related having evolved relatively recently from common ancestors.

Typically, wild chillies have small red deciduous fruit which are full of seeds. Most of them have a high capsaicin content and very thin flesh, which makes them of limited culinary value. In some cases the seed is reputed to be dificult to germinate and to need a stimulus which mimics the effect of passing through a bird's digestive system. My own experience is that they are a little slower and less uniform than cultivated chillies, but not really difficult.

The wild species are widely distributed in South & Central America, with one, Capsicum galapagoense, endemic to the Galapogos Islands. The northern limit of natural distribution reaches into the southern USA.


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