Pepper Types

By National Gardening Association Editors

Seed companies break the peppers we grow down into two categories: hot and sweet. The hot types include Cayenne, Jalapeno and Anaheim. Examples of sweet peppers are Bell and Pimiento. Banana and Cherry peppers come both sweet and hot.


Mildly hot, elongated, blunt-ended pods measure from four to 10 inches long and turn from green to red at maturity. These peppers are often called New Mexico chilis because of their long history of being grown in that region. Popular varieties include 'Anaheim TMR', 'NuMex Big Jim' and 'NuMex Sunrise'.


Long, thin-walled pepper that ripens to red or yellow; often used in the immature pale green stage. The hot type is called Hungarian Wax. Varieties include 'Sweet Banana' and 'Giant Yellow Banana'.


Characterized by large, blocky fruits with three or four lobes, these peppers are about three inches wide and four inches long and they taper slightly. Starting off as dark green to yellow-green, most turn red when fully ripe, although some turn yellow or orange, and even brown or purple. Bell peppers are regularly harvested and used when green. There are around 200 varieties in the Bell group. 'California Wonder', 'Northstar' and 'Ace' belong to this group.


These are hot chile peppers. The fruits are slim, pointed and slightly curved, ranging in length from two to eight inches. Most of the fruits are green, ripening to red. They can be used in either the green or the red stage. Examples are 'Large Thick Cayenne', 'Super Cayenne' and 'Long Red Cayenne'.


Fruits are cherry or globe-shaped with three cells. They grow on long, upright stems, usually above the leaves of the plant. They are usually orange to deep red when harvested and may be sweet or hot, large or small. Varieties include 'Cherry Sweet' and 'Large Cherry'.


One of the most well known hot peppers. The three-inch-long by one-inch-wide conical fruits can be eaten green or red and their mildly hot flavor is popular on nachos, salsas and pickled. Varieties include 'Jalapa', 'Jalapeno M' and 'TAM Jalapeno'.


These peppers are sweet and have very thick walls. The fruit is conical, two to three inches wide, three to four inches long and slightly pointed. Pimientos are red when ripe, and they're most commonly used at this stage. Popular varieties include 'Super Red Pimiento' and 'Pimiento L'.

Ornamental Peppers

Ornamental peppers are a true member of the Capsicum family like the peppers that are grown for food outdoors. Give them lots of sun and keep them evenly moist, and they'll produce many small cone-shaped peppers. These plants, which you can usually buy through a seed catalog, at a florist shop or even in a supermarket, are very pretty when the miniature peppers start to ripen. Often you'll have a plant simultaneously splashed with green, yellow, red and orange because each pepper ripens at its own pace.

These mini peppers are edible, but they are hot! You can use them in cooking or for attractive and different hors d'oeuvres along with crackers and a dip. Just be careful not to confuse them with a plant called the Jerusalem or Christmas Cherry. Instead of the cone-shaped peppers, these plants have round, reddish-orange fruits when ripe and they are not edible.

The Name Game

Chile, Chili, Cayenne, Jalapeno - By Any Name, It's Hot! Names for hot peppers can get confusing. Some people call them chili peppers, cayennes or jalapenos, and others just call them hot peppers. What are they really called? Is each of these names a separate category?

The confusion started in Mexico. Chile is the Spanish word for pepper. To specify which type of pepper, Mexicans would add the word for the particular type after the name chile. Therefore, chile dulce would be sweet pepper, chile jalapeno would be the Jalapeno pepper, and so on. When chile found its way into this country, different meanings were given to it in various parts of the country, and it even acquired a new spelling. In the Southwest and West, chile is used to refer to the Anaheim pepper. In other parts of the South and the Southeast, and still other sections of the country, chile refers to any type of hot pepper. Some folks refer to all hot peppers as cayennes or jalapenos. And all over the country we have different chile con carnes, which are pepper based.

Chile and chili are not varieties of peppers, but only words used to describe that the pepper is hot. So whether you say chile or chili, cayenne or jalapeno, and whether the word describes just an Anaheim pepper or all hot peppers, watch out! That pepper is hot!

Other articles in this series:
1. Pepper Types ← you're on this article right now
2. A Brief History of Peppers
3. All About Okra
4. Eggplant Essentials
5. Okra Essentials
6. Pepper Essentials

This article is a part of our Vegetable Gardening Guide for Eggplant, Peppers and Okra / Getting Started.

Comments and discussion:
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Chile Negro Peppers by MoscowMillsHank Jun 13, 2020 9:03 AM 0
A list of some peppers and their SHU by BonniePega Jun 16, 2018 9:05 AM 0

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