The chilli, or chili, is the fruit of the plants from the genus Capsicum, which are members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. Even though chilis may be thought of as a vegetable, their culinary usage is, generally, a spice, the part of the plant that is usually harvested is the fruit, and botany considers the plant a berry shrub.

The name, which is spelled differently in many regions (chili, chile, or chilli), comes from Nahuatl chīlli via the Spanish word chile. The term chili in most of the world refers exclusively to the smaller, hot types of capsicum. The mild larger types are called bell pepper in the United States, Canada (and sometimes the United Kingdom), sweet pepper in Britain and Ireland, capsicum in India and Australasia, and paprika in many European countries. Finally, bell peppers are often named simply by their colour (e.g. green or red pepper).

Chili peppers and their various cultivars originate in the Americas; they are now grown around the world because they are widely used as spices or vegetables in cuisine, and as medicine.

Family : Solanaceae Genus : Capsicum

Species : Capsicum anum, Capsicum frutescens, Capsicum chinense

Chilli is fruit of plants belonging to Capsicum genus and Solanaceae family. Capsicum is derived from the Greek word "Kapsimo" meaning "to bite." When eaten, it gives a burning sensation.

Chilli originates from South America. In search of spices, Christopher Columbus set his journey from Portugal. However, Christopher Columbus landed in South America. He found that the origins of South America used chilli. Columbus named them as "peppers" because they were similar in taste as black peppers. After the discovery of the spice, chilli replaced black pepper as prime spices in the culinary.

When chili was brought to Spain, Dieogo Alvarez Chanca, a Spanish physician found that chilli had medicinal value. Chilli was believed to cure disease and used as pain killers. From Spain, chilli spread to rest of Europe and soon spread to South Asian countries like India and China. Chilli was introduced to India by the Portuguese explorer, Vasco-da-Gama who landed in 20th May, 1498. Chilli was introduced in China and spread further to Japan. Soon chilli was accepted as important spice in the local cuisines.

Chilli is an indispensable spice used as basic ingredient in everyday cuisine all over the world. The chilli powder is made by crushing the dried chilli having chilli flakes and chilli pods. The chilli powder began to be used to different countries.

The pungency of the chill is measure in Scoville scale. The hotness of the chilli is because the capsaicin present actually in the inner membrane placenta of the chilli and not in the chilli pods and chilli flakes as commonly believed. Named after the scientist Wilbur Scoville, the Scoville scale measures the hotness of the chilli. The pure capsaicin is 16,000,000 Scoville units. The hot chilli Red Savina habanero has 580,000 Scoville units. The hottest chilli on the Earth is called "Naga Jolokia" found in Tezpur laboratory by the scientist. It is also called Bih Jolokia meaning "Bih-poison" "Jolokia-chili pepper". Tezpur Chilli is said to be 855.000 Scoville units of capsaicin.

There are many common species of chilli including bell peppers, paprika, jalapenos, scotch bonnets, rocoto peppers, aji peppers, habanaeros, cayenne, and tabasco peppers. Here are the different varieties of chilli belonging to the common of species:

  • Capsicum anum
    Bell peppers, paprika, early, New Mexican, jalapenos, Cubanelle, Charleston hot cayenne, Fresno Chile, pimento, Bulgarian carrot chili, Peter pepper, ornamental piquin, tepin, Thai hot, and chiltepin.
  • Capsicum frutenscens
    Cayenne and tabasco peppers -.
  • Capsicum chinense
    Habaneros, Fatalii, and Scotch bonnets -
  • Capsicum pubescens
    Rocoto peppers
  • Capsicum baccatum
    Aji peppers