What’s In A Name? Capsicum Annuum

Chillies are deliciously fascinating – their forms, colours and flavours tantalise the senses; their names alone are enough to make your tongue tingle in anticipation.


The alluring colours of last year’s harvest

I’ve been growing far more chillies over the past few years than sanity should dictate. I’m drawn in by the evocative colour and spice of names like ‘Bolivian Rainbow’, ‘Numex Twilight’, ‘Machu Pichu’, ‘Trinidad Perfume’, ‘Peruvian Lemon Drop’, ‘Apache’, ‘Cayenne’ and ‘Prairie Fire’. There’s a gentle charm to ‘Russian Red Fatty’, ‘Bulgarian Carrot’ and ‘Chocolate Cherry’, and a sense of mystery behind ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’, ‘Albertos Locoto’ and ‘Aji Fantasy’. Once I’ve tasted an exciting name, it’s too late, I’m hooked.



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This year’s darker crop

Capsicum, the genus including both chillies and sweet peppers, is a member of the Solanaceae family which also includes tomatoes, potatoes and deadly nightshade. Chillies originate from South America; a fact reflected in many of their names. The origins of Capsicum are obscure, but it may have come from the Latin capsa ‘box’, referring to the pods (hence the name of chillies such as ‘Aji Bolsa De Dulce’ where bolsa is Spanish for ‘bag’ or ‘purse’ – literally the ‘chilli bag of sweetness’) or the Greek kapto meaning ‘to gulp’.

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Today’s chilli harvest…

When Capsicum is combined with annum ‘by the year’, I like to think of my chillies as my ‘yearly gulp’. I’m not sure whether this refers to the relish with which I sample the first ‘Comet’s Tail’ of the year (a chilli whose parent seeds have spent time in space on the Chinese Academy of Space programme to improve size and yield by exposing them to zero gravity) or the yearly uncomfortable swallowing motion experienced when I see the hundreds of tiny seedlings emerging every spring and wonder how I will:

a) accommodate them all until they can be transferred to the unheated greenhouse

b) explain the chilli invasion to my husband


Chillies make everything OK!

Next year I’m planning to add a few new chilli labels to the collection with ‘Aji Habanero’, ‘Pearls’, ‘Fresno Supreme’, ‘Trinidad Chilaca’, ‘Loco’, ‘Hot Lemon’ and ‘Poblana Ancho’ and I’ll be sharing seeds from my current plants with others to spread a bit of chilli magic. With names like these, who could resist growing a few… and then a few more? Just don’t tell my husband!

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First batch of chilli jam

If you’d like to follow my blog and read more about my crops for 2018, you can click below to subscribe. Thanks very much and happy gardening…

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16 thoughts on “What’s In A Name? Capsicum Annuum

  1. Jenny says:

    I am currently resisting growing chillis on the basis that we really don’t use very many … this is a resistance which I will give up on sooner or later, not least because we got a smoker as a wedding present and making my own home-grown smoked chillies is just going to be too tempting.

    How to choose which to grow, though …? By best name seems as good a way as any! Of course, propagation on windowsills is tricky in a house with cats, but what are guestrooms for?

    • dogwooddays says:

      Guest rooms are for chillies – always!! 😊 A smoker sounds exciting – I’m really hoping to get a dehydrator soon so I can preserve the various harvests more easily. Also for chilli choice look at the SHU and tailor it to your tastes in heat… 🔥

  2. Jessica Foley (@ModernMomsLife) says:

    My kids were like “Whoa – that’s a lot of peppers!” while they were looking over my should as a read this. I’m not much of a pepper connoisseur but I do grow green and red bells in my garden. I’ve done jalapenos before but not chilies. Might be something to put on my garden “to try” list!

    • dogwooddays says:

      This made me chuckle!! They are as easy to grow as bell peppers and I choose lots which have flavour but not much spice so the kids can eat them too. Although as they get a bit older the chillies my be getting a little spicier! 🙂

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