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Peppers from the Herb Garden

From hot to mild and in an array of colors, the peppers are popping in the Herb Garden this week. Curator Caleb Leech keeps a close eye on all the fruits, veggies, and herbs in the Garden and harvests them once they're ready. I was lucky enough to stop by at the right time to get a sample and a lesson on each of the peppers he was picking. Not only do chiles have distinct colors, textures, and aromas, but the flavors (and heat) are incredibly varied.

Below is a selection of some of the peppers I was able to try along with some information on each of them. Stop by and take a look for yourself in the Herb Garden, or come to BBG's Chile Pepper Festival!

‘Ampuis’ Pepper
Capsicum annuum ‘Ampuis’
This rare French cultivar (pronounced om-Poo-ee) has stubby, lanternlike fruits that ripen to red. The flesh is crispy and has a sweet flavor with slight hints of heat. The fruits are popular for frying.

Bell Pepper
Capsicum annuum Bell Group
These sweet peppers are plump and bell-shaped, featuring either three or four lobes. Inside the thick flesh is an inner cavity with edible bitter seeds and a white spongy core. Bell peppers contain a recessive gene that eliminates capsaicin, the compound responsible for the hotness of chiles.

‘Black Scorpion Tongue’ Chile
Capsicum chinense ‘Black Scorpion Tongue’
This rare and very hot pepper has wrinkled, tongue-shaped fruits that ripen from purple to cream and finally to red. Along with its hot flavor, ‘Scorpion Tongue’ is unique in shape and makes an attractive ornamental.

‘Caribbean Red’ Habanero Pepper
Capsicum chinense (Habanero Group) ‘Caribbean Red’
Often cited as the hottest chile in the world, with a Scoville rating of 400,000, the red habanero turns from a light green to deep glossy red as it matures. It has a smoky citrus taste that is overwhelmed by heat moments after eating.

Cayenne Chile
Capsicum annuum Cayenne Group
One of the most widely used hot peppers in cooking, the cayenne is intensely hot, about 30,000 to 50,000 on the Scoville scale. It is most often dried and ground for use as a powder.

Cherry Pepper
Capsicum annuum Red Cherry Group
Named for its cherry shape, this plump pepper is very aromatic and has a mildly spicy flavor. It is sometimes called a pimento and is often used in cooking and pickling.

‘Fatalii’ Pepper
Capsicum chinense (Habanero Group) ‘Fatalii’
One of the hottest chiles known, ‘Fatalii’ scores near the top of the Scoville scale, at between 125,000 and 325,000. These golden-yellow fruits grow to around three inches long and have a citrusy flavor beneath the intense heat.

‘India Jwala’ Chile
Capsicum annuum ‘India Jwala’
Probably the most popular hot pepper in India, the fruit of ‘India Jwala’ grows to about four inches long and has a slender, wrinkled shape. This profuse bloomer produces roughly 50 peppers per plant, which ripen in stages and contribute to its ornamental appeal.

Jalapeño Pepper
Capsicum annuum Jalapeño Group

This medium-size green chile has a mild flavor and moderate heat that makes it popular for eating both raw and cooked. It has a moderate rating of 2,000 to 5,000 heat units on the Scoville scale.

‘Hot Lemon’ Chile
Capsicum baccatum ‘Hot Lemon’
This cultivar is an heirloom from Ecuador. It produces three-inch-long fruits that ripen to yellow and are similar to cayenne but with a spicier aroma. They can be dried or used fresh in sauces.

Pasilla Chile
Capsicum annuum Pasilla Group
Usually harvested when shiny and dark blackish green, pasilla chiles have a gentle but complex earthy flavor and can range from mild to fairly hot. As the fruit matures, it turns red and develops a sweeter flavor. It generally rates low on the Scoville scale, at 1,000 to 1,500 heat units.

‘Red Peter’ Pepper
Capsicum annuum ‘Red Peter’
A rare and provocative chile with quite a bit of heat, the prominently wrinkled, cylindrical fruits grow to three to four inches long, with a likeness to a certain male anatomical feature.

‘Poblano’ Pepper
Capsicum annuum ’Poblano’
One of the most popular and common chiles used in Mexican cuisine, the ‘Poblano’ bears heart-shaped fruits up to four inches long with a mildly hot, smoky flavor.

‘Thai Red’ Chile
Capsicum annuum ‘Thai Red’

This cultivar is not quite as flaming hot as the habanero, but it still packs quite a punch for its small size. The plants bear heavily and are very ornamental, with the elongated fruits pointing upward from the branches.

Tabasco Pepper
Capsicum frutescens Tabasco Group

This small and very hot chile is famous for the sauce that shares its name. The fruits are also quite ornamental as they ripen, changing colors from white to yellow, orange, and red.

‘Takanotsume’ Chile
Capsicum annuum ‘Takanotsume’
A very hot specialty pepper from Japan, the name means “claw of the eagle” for the talonlike shape of the fruit, which matures from green to a rich red and measures about 1½ inches long.

‘Numex Twilight’ Chile
Capsicum annuum ‘Numex Twilight’
This small, very spicy pepper is usually grown for its ornamental characteristics. The small plants are filled with multicolored fruits throughout the growing season, which slowly ripen from green to hues of yellow, purple, orange, and finally red.

Rebecca Bullene is a former editor at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She is the proprietor of Greenery NYC, a creative floral and garden design company that specializes in botanical works of art including terrariums, urban oasis gardens, and whimsical floral arrangements.


  • john maduras August 29, 2016

    I’ve been unsuccessfully searching for ajicitos dulces sweet peppers. I was glad to read an old post from 2012 that you had a crop failure that year with it. Have you been successful since then? I’d love to get some advice on growing them.

  • Ada October 5, 2013

    I eat habanero peppers and they are lovely; the best come from Cameroon, Nigeria, and Peru.

  • Jim & Francesca Tate September 27, 2012

    Dear Caleb,
    Thank you for clarifying what happened—I’m so sad to hear about the crop failure with the ajicitos dulces but we can identify: We’re having trouble getting our culantro plant to grow at home; but isn’t dying but it also isn’t growing well.  We’ll look for you on Saturday.  Best, Francesca & Jim

  • caleb leech September 20, 2012

    Hi, Jim and Francesca,
    Thanks for your interest in the Herb Garden. We strive to cultivate as many varieties as possible. We actually had crop failure this summer of our aji dulce peppers. We’ll try again next year. I would be happy to hear about how you make use of those delicious fruits. Please say hi in the Herb Garden: I’m in the hat.

  • Jim & Francesca Tate August 30, 2012

    It would be great to see some of the other sweeter peppers, in addition to bell pepper, featured. For example, NYC’s significant Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Dominican populations use ajicitos dulces, a sweet, mildly warm pepper (thus the name) in salsas and seasonings. They look similar to habaneros but are lighter green. We’d love to see the ajicitos dulces included, and as a BBG member family, would even be glad to share recipes.

  • Artfldgr September 30, 2011

    and scotch bonnets? hotter than habanero..
    my wife is south asian, and there is even a hotter one than scotch bonnet…

  • zoe September 30, 2011

    Spices and especially peppers are A-plus in my world of cooking and beverages too ....what a treat to go and see and smell and eat ......i am excited !! too ...i am smiling ear to ear !!!

  • The Real Mike A September 9, 2011



    You can, and should, eat them all!

  • Mike A October 31, 2010

    ?Capsicum annuum

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