The flavour of chillies and their heat factor can vary a great deal between varieties. The fiery nature of these fruits comes from capsaicin, found in the seeds and the sac that surrounds them – to modify the heat of a chilli both the seeds and membranes should be removed. The Scoville scale (named after an American pharmacist, Wilbur Scoville) is a measurement of how spicy a chilli is, measured in Scoville heat units (SHU).
Poblanos are often used in sauces; when dried a pepper is called an ancho. It’s a lovely mild chilli (1000 to 2000 SHU) and is great for stuffing.
The jalapeño chilli is of mild to medium piquancy, measuring 2000 to 10,000 SHU. Usually picked while still green, it’s very popular pickled and widely used in Mexican cuisine. When jalapeños turn a deep red they can be dried and smoked and are then known as chipotle (pronounced chi-poat-lay).
The serrano chilli is typically eaten raw and in its green state. They’re notably hotter than jalapeños – 5000 to more than 20,000 SHU –and are often used in salsas.
Cayenne is widely known for its dried, powdered form, used for seasoning, but it’s also sold fresh and rates from 30,000 to 50,000 SHU.
Bird’s eye chilli is found in Southeast Asian and Indian (Keralan) cuisine. The fruits are small but pack a punch, ticking up to 225,000 SHU.
The habanero chilli was once thought to be the hottest but new hybrids have overtaken that title. These fruit are small and lantern-shaped, with a thin, waxy flesh and a citrus-like flavour. They’re completely delicious but treat with caution: they can burn up to 350,000 SHU.
Some of our favourite chilli infused dishes include: