Turn Up The Heat: Our Handy Guide To All Things Peppers!
From spicy to sweet, bell peppers and chilli peppers add colour to shelves and plates. Have you ever wondered what the difference between the two are? And why some are hot, and some are not? We bring the heat and answer your burning questions below!
Q. Why are capsicums and chillies also called peppers?
A. The name “pepper” was mainly used in Europe for all species of plants that were hot. The heat of a pepper is measured using Scoville heat units (SHU), and this scale goes from 0 to over 3,000,000 (wowza!).
Q. Do chilli and capsicum come from the same family?
A. They sure do! Their cone-shaped, glossy and vibrant exterior may give it away. Capsicums (Capsicum annuum) and Chilli (Capsicum frutescens) originate from South and Central America. They are members of the Solanaceae (Nightshade) family, as are tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant.
Q. If Capsicum are from the same family as Chillies, how come they are not as spicy?
A. Capsicum are also known as sweet peppers and do not produce capsaicin. Capsaicin is the chemical in chillies that cause spiciness.
Q. What is the difference between red, green, yellow and orange capsicum?
All capsicums start out green and grow to a mature size before changing colour. The colour change is caused by the breakdown of chlorophyll before fully maturing to yellow or red.
A. Green: Green capsicum has a rather bitter taste, making them the least popular to eat raw but fantastic for cooking. These are also generally most affordable as they are considered unripe!
A. Yellow & Orange: Yellow capsicum have an almost fruity taste and are sweet. This leaves them perfect for both cooking (especially roasting) and eating plain.
A. Red: The sweetest and juiciest of them all. Red capsicum is fully ripe and the most mature. Since they are fully ripe, they continue to develop sugar content while ripening on the vine.
Q. Which chilli is best for what?
A. We decode them below! Similarly to capsicum, chillies can also be red, green, orange or yellow.
Bullet Chillies Are hot, small, chillies that are red when ripe.
Long green and red chillies are not as spicy making them ideal for curries.
Jalapeños are small, dark green chillies that are often used in Mexican cuisine. These pack a punch however they are still palatable.
Cayenne chillies are very hot, long, narrow, red chillies that are dried and made into cayenne pepper.
Habañeros are extremely hot and can be found in many commercial hot sauces.
Q. Is it safe to eat seeds or should you remove them before eating?
A. Capsicum seeds are not toxic; however, it is recommended that you remove them before eating as the seeds have a bitter taste and may be unpleasant to some.
Chilli seeds are actually NOT spicy. The spice is located within the whitish pithy innards, the placenta. These seeds might be coated with some of the oils from this pith, so if you do detect heat, it will be from the pith, not the seeds themselves!
It pays to know your peppers! Pepper the wide variety of peppers throughout your store and leave your customers to decide whether they want to bring the flavour, heat or both back home.