There are many varieties of pepper, but the following are best known in Jamaica. Scotch Bonnet â€“ Large, round, wrinkled with a flattened base; very pungent but with an excellent flavour â€“ the fruit ripens yellow Bird or Birdâ€(tm)s Eye Pepper â€“ Not cultivated but growing half-wild with a very small, but exceedingly pungent fruit which is red when ripe. It is the principal source of â€˜cayenneâ€(tm) pepper. Sweet Pepper: A non-pungent variety, edible as a vegetable. The fruit, under good cultivation, are about 3 to 4 inches long and 2 to 3 inches across. The powdered dry pods make paprika.
Sweet and hot, fresh and dried chilies all belong to the genus Capsicum Annum. Though peppers are native to the New World, they spread rapidly in the trade for roots around the world, handled mainly by the Portuguese spice traders. Chili peppers have become popular in most tropical countries. Scolville heat units are used to measure the heat intensity of a chili pepper. This scale is a subjective rating by professional tasters, used in a similar fashion to a Richter scale for earthquakes, but this scale is measures the heat in your mouth. The range can vary from 0 - 5 units for sweet peppers to 1500 -2000 for jalapeno to 60-80,000 for Tabasco to 100,000 -250,000 for scotch bonnets. Peppers range individually in heat, so taste a little from the small end before deciding how much you'll need for a dish. Much of the extreme heat is in the seeds and ribs.
In the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Canada, as well as the U.S., the heatless pepper varieties are called â€œpeppers,â€ â€œsweet peppers,â€ â€œgreen peppers,â€ or â€œred peppers.â€ See also â€œchilli/chillies.