Peppers (genus Capsicum) are commonly broken down into 2 groupings: Sweet peppers (including Bell peppers), and Hot peppers. Most pepper varieties fall into one of these groups – or as a cross between them – and belong to Capsicum annuum. The Habanero Pepper, though, is a member of Capsicum chinense.
Peppers are flowering plants in the nightshade family Solanaceae. Ideal growing conditions for peppers include warm soil that is kept moist but not waterlogged, and a temperature of 70 to 84 °F. Peppers are sensitive to an abundance of moisture. Pepper seeds are often times started indoors prior to transplanting to the garden after all frost, but can be direct seeded in warmer climates.
1. Sweet Peppers (including Bell Peppers) abound in different shapes, sizes, and many different colors including green, red, yellow, orange and more rarely, brown, white, lavender, dark purple and rainbow (between stages of ripening) – depending on the particular variety. Most typically, the unripe fruit is green, but in a few varieties it can be pale yellow or purple. Red peppers are simply ripened green peppers. Green peppers are less sweet and slightly more bitter than yellow or orange peppers, with the mature red bell peppers being the sweetest. The taste of ripe peppers can also vary with growing conditions and with the post-harvest storage treatment; the sweetest are allowed to ripen fully on the plant in full sunshine; whereas, the fruits that are harvested green and ripened afterwards in storage are less sweet.
Compared to green peppers, the red peppers have twice the vitamin C content of green peppers, and 3 times that of an average orange pepper. Red peppers also have a greater amount of carotene and the antioxidant Lycopene. Additionally, peppers are a good source of most B vitamins – Vitamin B6 in particular – and they are high in potassium, magnesium, and iron.
2. Hot Peppers – often simply referred to as Chile or Chili Pepper – also grow to different shapes, sizes and colors. More importantly, there is a tremendously wide range of “Heat” among the many varieties of Hot peppers, and each variety has found its particular place in various recipes, most notably Southwestern, Mexican, Caribbean, and Oriental dishes. Hot peppers are used fresh, roasted, pickled, or dried. Besides using dried chilies whole, they are often ground into powders for spicing foods. Dried whole chilis may also be reconstituted to a paste. The currently popular Chipotle Pepper is merely a ripe Jalapeño that has been dried and smoked. Fresh or dried chilies are also used to make the condiment “Hot Sauce”.
The "Heat" of any pepper can be measured through a process that determines Scoville heat units (SHU). The higher the Scoville number, the hotter the pepper. For example, Sweet Bell peppers rank at 0 SHU, New Mexico Green Chili peppers at about 1,500 SHU, Jalapeño peppers at 2,500 to 5,000 SHU, and Habanero peppers at 300,000 SHU. The world’s hottest peppers exceed 1,000,000 SHU – notably the Infinity Chili pepper at 1,200,000 SHU and the Carolina Reaper at 1,474,000 SHU.
Hot Peppers mimic Sweet Peppers nutritionally since red Hot Peppers contain large amounts of vitamin C and a beneficial amount of carotene (provitamin A). As noted with Sweet Peppers, the Hot Peppers are also a good source of most B vitamins – Vitamin B6 in particular – and they are high in potassium, magnesium, and iron.