Peppers or Capsicum come in several different guises. Native to the Americas, Capsicum is a member of the nightshade family (yes as in deadly nightshade) but are harmless. That said, the pepper spray the police use is made from capsicums. To simplify it, I’m going to narrow it down to three types.
Bell Peppers. These are peppers that are not hot. they have full shape and commonly come as Green Peppers (not fully ripe), Red Peppers, Yellow Peppers and Orange Peppers. They are the peppers you will be served in a salad (salad is the stuff you generally leave on the side of your plate).
Sweet Peppers. These are reasonably large peppers shaped like their hotter small counterparts the chili pepper. They are longer and thinner than bell peppers. I’m not going to bother explaining why they are called sweet peppers!
Chili Peppers. Spelled both as Chilli Peppers and Chili Peppers depending on where you live in the world. These are mild to hot flavoured. They include varieties like Jalapeno and Habanero. Do not put one of these directly into your mouth if you are not used to hot spicy food. They will make you cry.
What makes hot chili peppers hot?
The short answer is capsaicin (methyl vanillyl nonenamide). The important bit is where capsaicin is found in a pepper. A common myth is that it is in the seeds. It is not, nor is there much in the outer flesh of the fruit. Highest concentrations can be found in the white pithy bit around the seeds themselves and also in the internal support structure of the same colour.
Things that are actually all Capsicums (Peppers)
Peppers come in many forms. Some of these are:
- Chili flakes
- Chili powder
- Chipotle (smoked)
- Paprika (the powder)
- Chili oil (chillis suspended in an oil often with other ingredients).
Fruit or Vegetable?
Botanically speaking Peppers are a fruit (they contain seeds and there are other reasons that I’m too lazy to list).
From a cooking point of view they are often referred to as a vegetable (even if this is technically incorrect).
From a practical point of view, who cares.