Chillies: Some like them hot, some don't

How to grow and cook with these tender perennials.

Chillies: Some like them hot, some don't

You’ll find chillies in cuisines the world over from Mexico and Spain to Italy, Japan and the Caribbean where names such as Scotch Bonnet, Habanero, Tobago, Jalapeno, Red Cap Mushroom, Maui Purple and more are savoured for their wide-ranging flavours and heat ratings.

Chillies’ fiery characteristics are measured on the Scoville scale as Scoville Heat Units (SHU), which is related to their capsaicin concentration. However, what some consider a mild ‘chilli hit’ or a ‘blow your head off’ experience can also depend on one’s individual tolerance.

Chillies come in all shapes, sizes and colours and can be sweet and mild or light up the palate with explosive volatility. Underlying the heat there is a broad range of fruit flavours, sometimes grassy or earthy notes. The profile of Habanero is likened to tropical pawpaw and coconut while others reveal sweet, floral or tangy citrus tastes.

As a general guideline, the smaller the chilli, the hotter it will be. These colourful fiery fruits are easy to grow, be it in the garden or a pot, and will produce a prolific eye-catching crop. Some varieties resemble long hot pokers, others are reminiscent of a bauble-decorated Christmas tree.