This article throws light upon the twenty-one main types of capsicum. Some of the types are: 1. Bell Group 2. Pimiento 3. Squash/Tomato/Cheese 4. Yellow Wax 5. Cherry 6. Paprika 7. Chiltepin/Chile Piquin 8. Ancho, Mulato and Pasilla 9. Cayenne 10. Chihuacle 11. Cuban and Pepperoncini 12. Costeno 13. Mirasol 14. Cascabel 15. de Arbol 16. Jalapeno 17. Serrano 18. New Mexican 19. Santaka/Hontaka and Others.
1. Bell Group:
This is economically most important type. California Wonder and Keystone Resistant are the oldest cultivars and represent the typical pod type. These are non-pungent except some like Mexibell which is pungent. Fruits possess 3-4 lobes which are rounded or blunt at the base leading to a blocky appearance.
This is characterized by a heart shaped, thick walled fruit that is green when immature and red at maturity. The fruits are non-pungent. Except heart shape or conical fruits, they are similar to bell type.
The fruits are generally flat. The fruits begin as green and turn red, yellow or orange at maturity. They are non-pungent like bells and pimiento fruits. These are usually pickled.
4. Yellow Wax:
The fruits are yellow when immature with a waxy appearance and turn orange, orange-red or red at maturity. The long fruited types are known as Hungarian Wax or Banana Peppers and the short fruited types as the cascabella or just as yellow wax. Fruits are 100-200 mm long and cylindrical. They contain anti-oxicompounds such as flavonoids and ascorbic acid in abundance. Wax fruits are often pickled but can be used fresh as salads.
Cherry types have small, round or slightly flattened, immature green fruits that turn red at maturity. The shape of pod is similar to that of cherry. The fruit is either pungent or non-pungent. An ornamental potted plant called Jerusalem cherry is not a pepper but Solanum pseudo-capsicum whose fruits are poisonous.
Paprika is a peculiar pepper category. It is not a pod type in international spice trade or in the United States, but it is a product. Any non-pungent, dried, red powder is paprika to the international spice trade. This mild powder can be made from any type of C. annuum that is non-pungent and has a brilliant red colour.
However in Europe, there are pepper pod types which are paprikas. This is because in the Hungarian language ‘paprika’ means Capsicum or pepper and has been referred to as ‘red gold’ by Hungarian farmers. Paprika may be pungent in Hungary, but it is always non-pungent in international trade. Even though paprika is considered to be a spice product in international trade, it is consumed as an important vegetable in European and North African diets.
In Europe, paprika is made from two principal fruit types:
(i) A round fruit about the size of a peach and called Spanish or Moroccan paprika; and
(ii) A longer, more conical and pointed type grown in the Balkan countries, called Hungarian paprika.
These have been selected for high ASTA (American Spice Trade Association) values and corresponding bright red coloured powder. In India it is known as ‘Kashmiri Mirch’ or Badyagi type and is used to add colour to dal and vegetables.
7. Chiltepin/Chile Piquin:
These are the pepper pods found growing naturally in the wild. They are the ‘mother of all chiles’. A common name is ‘bird pepper’ because of the fondness birds show towards it. The fruits are small, 2 cm long and 1 cm wide. The green fruit is pickled, while the red form is dried and used as a seasoning.
8. Ancho, Mulato and Pasilla:
There is much confusion with the names for the fruits in the ancho group. Ancho fruit is pungent, heart-shaped, pointed, thin-walled and has an indented stem attachment. The immature fruit colour is dark green.
If fruit colour is red at maturity, ancho types retain the name ancho, but if it is dark brown at maturity, it is called mulato. Poblano is used by the United States’ produce industry for any green ancho fruit. Technically, poblano is a specific ancho grown in Puebla, Mexico. True passilla is a long, slender, dried pepper pod.
Cayenne named either for the city or the river in French Guiana, has red mature fruit and is characteristically wrinkled. Pod length is 13-25 cm by 1.2-2.5 cm wide. The pod may be crescent or irregular in shape. It is highly pungent.
It is grown commercially in Africa, India, Mexico, Japan and the United States. In the United States it is grown in Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas where it is made into a mash with salt to be used to make hot sauces. It can be dried and ground into a powder, commonly known as ‘red pepper’.
Chihuacle is a rare pod type grown only in southern Mexico. The name suggests a pre-Colombian domestication. Chihuacles vary in shape, but usually measure 5-7.5 cm in length and 4-6 cm in width. The fruits are thin-walled and range in appearance from that of a miniature bell pepper to pods that are broad shouldered tapering to a point. Immature fruits are green, ripening to yellow, red or even a black colour.
11. Cuban and Pepperoncini:
The fruit of the Cuban type has large, irregular thin walls. ‘Cubanelle’ and ‘Aconcagua’ are two common cultivars within Cuban group. With the pepperoncini, there are two types, Italian pepperoncini and Greek pepperoncini.
Costeno peppers are grown commercially in Guerrero, Mexico. There is a lot of variability in plant type because the Costeno pepper is a landrace. The plant can grow to 1.5 m high, and has many branches starting at the ground level. The pods are long and either conical or oval in shape. They vary in size from 2 to 15 cm long by 1 to 3 cm wide. The body of the pod is cylindrical and very wrinkled, with some having very deep constrictions in the skin. They are very pungent.
This group consists of peppers called mirasol, guajillo and cascabel. The fruits are translucent and thin-walled. This group is used in the dry form. The mirasol type has erect fruit, hence the appropriate name ‘mirasol’, which means looking at the sun.
Some of the new mirasol cultivars do have pendulate fruit. Pods are 7-10 cm long, and 1-2 cm wide and slightly curved. The guajillo type has a rich burgundy-red colour when dried. It has the shape of a small New Mexican type. The pods are 11 cm long and 2.5 cm wide. The guajillo is also known as ‘pulla’.
This pod type is sometimes listed under the mirasol group. The cascabel is similar in shape to the cherry, but has a thinner wall. The fruit is most often used in the dry form and it is the dry form that gives the pod its name. The dried fruits have the distinct characteristic of the seeds ‘rattling’ in the pod, hence its name, cascabel (rattle).
15. de Arbol:
The name, ‘de Arbol’, is derived from the resemblance of the pepper plant to a tree, although it grows only 60-152 cm high. The fruits are 5-8 cm long, 0.5-1 cm wide, and translucent when dried. The calyx end of the fruit is narrow and tapered, which distinguishes it from mirasol. The fruits are larger than the chile piquin.
The jalapeno pepper was named for the town of Jalapa, Mexico where it was originally marketed. However, it was not originally grown there, but was imported from the surrounding regions. Fruits are thick-walled, conical-shaped, bullet shaped, dark green when immature (turning red at maturity) and highly pungent.
They are principally used as a spice and condiment. Most of the jalapeno crop is preserved by canning or pickling, while a small amount is dehydrated in either the green or red stage. Fruit skin may show a netting pattern called corkiness. Corkiness on the fruit is a desirable trait in Mexico but is undesirable in the United States. Hybrid cultivars now dominate the industry.
This pod type probably originated in the mountains of northern Puebla and Hildago, Mexico, hence its name ‘Serrano’, literally from the highland or mountain. It has cylindrical fruits 5-10 cm long, 1 cm wide, with medium-thick walls and no corkiness. The immature fruit colour ranges from light to dark green. Fruits are red, brown, orange or yellow when mature.
18. New Mexican:
The New Mexican pod type is also called long green Chile or ‘Anaheim’. In fact, the pod type is New Mexican, and ‘NuMex Joe E. Parker’ and ‘Anaheim’ are cultivars within this pod type. New Mexican green pepper is roasted and peeled for fresh consumption, and for canning or freezing.
The skins must be removed before using. If pods are left on the plant to be harvested at the red stage, they are usually dried and ground into pepper powder (paprika if non-pungent). All New Mexican type peppers grown today gained their genetic base from cultivars first developed at New Mexico State University.
This pod type is typical of the pungent peppers from Japan. The fruits are 7 cm long and 3/4 cm wide, and set in clusters on the plant similar to mirasol types. The fruits are very hot, but the pungency dissipates rapidly. The fruits are used in the red ripe stage, where they are dried and used as a seasoning.
Ornamental peppers as potted plants are popular in Europe and are gaining in popularity in the United States. Ornamental peppers are not really a ‘pod type’, but a unique class of peppers. Covered with bright red fruits during the holiday season, ornamentals are often called Christmas peppers. Although edible, ornamentals are grown primarily for their unusual pod shapes or for their dense foliage and colourful fruits.
21. Hot Chiles:
This group includes a wide range of cultivars with thin tapering fruits having high pungency. Plants are 80-100 cm long with multiple branches and often pubescent foliage. The smooth fruits range between 50 and 120 mm in length and 8-12 mm in width. The Korean and Indian hot red chilli types tend to be longer than the Thai varieties or the Mexican Chile de arbol types.
The Mexican Serrano pepper has generally thick flesh (3-5 mm) and is mostly utilized as a fresh green Chile for salsas or pickle. The Asian types are utilized both as red fruit for processing into sauces and powders or as green fruit for cooking and salads. Hybrid cultivars of many hot chill types have recently begun to dominate the market in many countries, like India, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, and China, etc.
Similarly, there are pod types within C. chilense, C. baccatum and C. pubescens. However, it must be mentioned that C. annuum and C. frutescens are considered important. C. annuum is usually an annual with flowers and fruits borne singly.
Cultivars of this species include the chilies, red, green, yellow, sweet peppers and paprika. C. frutescens is a shrubby perennial with several flowers on each inflorescence. Cultivated types include the bird chilies, cherry, capsicum and cluster pepper.