Pepeprs (genus capsicum) originate in South America, and figure prominently in the cuisines of Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Mexico, Caribbean Islands, Argentina, and now more and more mainstream American dishes.

Peppers belong to the solanacea family of plants with 31 species, of which only four to six are domesticated. There are now American hybridisers creating less fiery crossbreeds.

Over centuries, pepper species travelled to many countries were crossbred naturally or by researchers, and evolved in an array of sub-varieties. Some are devilishly hot (Scotch bonnet, Coban, Tabasco), other are relatively mild, some are long and slender, others, red or green or yellow.

Botanically, all capsicum are fruits (berries) with lustrous skin and a ribbed, and seed-filled interior. All contain phenols that generate the heat.

Spanish conquistadors first encountered peppers in the Greater Antilles and dubbed them as pimientos, but eventually started calling them by the Nahuatl word peppers chilli.

The Taino word aji was also adopted. The Taino were the indigenous inhabitants of Caribbean Islands but are now extinct.

Peppers were spread all over the world by Spanish ands Portuguese traders. In some tropical countries they grew well, in others they had to be abandoned.

The U S A is one of the few western states grow `hot` peppers i.e Louisiana, and New Mexico.

Of late modern chefs have started using a variety in their recipes.

Europeans are, so far, not keen on `hot` peppers, except Hungarians and Spanish, but they may still adopt these versatile fruits that can be mild, hot, very hot or infernal.

Some dry well; others should be used fresh in modest amounts for western palates.

Pepper species

Aji marillo ( Peru)
Aji caballero (Puerto Rico)
Aji crystal (Chile)
Aji dulce
Aji limon (Andes Mountains)
Aji Sanata Cruz (Bolivia)
Aribibi gusano (Bolivia)
Belize sweet habanero (Belize)
Bolivian habanero (Bolivia)
Bolivian rainbow (Bolivia)
Caribbean red
Coban (Guatemala)
Chile de arbol
Chilepin (Mexico)
Chocolate habanero
Cayenne (very hot)
Cayenen gold (developed in the U S A )
Chile de aqua (Mexico)
Ecuadorian aji (Ecuador)
Grenada seasoning (Grenada)
Inca red drop (Peru)
Jalapeno (Mexico)
Lantern (Peru)
Malagueta (Brazil)
Maraba (Brazil)
Mirasol, purple (Mexico)
Numes big jun (New Mexico, U S A)
Numex sanda (developed in the U S A)
Peruvian habanero (Peru)
Peruvian pointer (Peru)
Pimento de pardon (Spain)
Poblano (Mexico)
Quintisho (Bolivia)
Red habanero (developed in the U S A)
Red rocoto (Bolivia)
Red Scotch bonnetRocotillo
Santa Fe grande (developed in the U S A)
Serrano (Mexico)
Starfish (Brazil)
Tabasco (Central America)
Trinidad perfume (Trinidad and Tobago)