Chilli peppers originally come from the Americas. They were thought to have been first discovered by Christopher Columbus and he was one of the very first Europeans to taste them on one of his many trips to the Caribbean. They were named peppers because their spicy hot taste resembled that of the pepper.
The heat of chilli peppers is measured by something called the Scoville Scale (SHU); this indicates the amount of the chemical capsaicin present in the Chilli pepper. Capsaicin is a chemical compound that stimulates nerve endings in the skin, especially in the mouth and eyes. Some of the hottest chilli in the world can measures 2 million units!
Chilli are made up of three general groups of chilli
Habanero-type chillies: Habanero chillies range in heat from very mild with hardly any noticeable heat to super-hot. They have a lovely fruity aroma that adds a very distinctive flavour to many dishes such as salsas and chilli sauces.
Vegetable-type chillies: These chillies are often quite large-fruited and can have very thick flesh, they tend to be milder and with less heat than the other types of chilli. They are used in much the same way as sweet peppers and taste wonderful stuffed or chopped.
Hot-type chillies: These have generally a much smaller pod (fruit) with a much thinner fleshed and are much hotter than the vegetable type chillies. They are used to add heat to dishes and are ideal for drying and milling into chilli powder.
Chillies are native to tropical America, and are widely cultivated. They grow best in moist soils and bright sunlight.