Chillies (also called chilli pepper) are mild to extremely hot fleshy fruit that can be green, red, yellow, orange or brown. Their shape too varies from long and skinny like the jalapeno to round and fat like the Scotch bonnet. Chilli is part of the Solanaceae family, which also includes its close relative the capsicum along with tomato, eggplant and potato.
When cooking, the smallest chilli are generally the hottest and the seeds and stems are usually removed to reduce the heat. The heat of a chilli comes from a chemical known as ‘capsaicin’, which is particularly concentrated in seeds. The sweet chilli, better known in Australia as capsicum, is just a large chilli that lacks capsaicin, so it is sweet, not hot. The heat of chillies is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), which reflects levels of capsaicin.
SHU should be taken as a guide only as growing conditions and fruit maturity also affects how much capsaicin is in the chilli and how hot it tastes. As a guide, a capsicum has no heat units, a Jalapeno chilli is rated from 2500-8000 SHU while the Habanero, a hot chilli, is 100,00-350,00 SHU. Scotch Bonnet is rated 100,000-400,000 SHU making it one of the hottest of the chillies, but it is not as hot as the Trinidad Scorpion ‘Butch T’ variety, which has been recorded at an 1,463,700 SHU.
Follow our seven easy steps to successful chilli harvest including tips along the way.