In current times, chillies grow all over the world, with different varieties taking on certain regional traits. But where did chillies originate?

The very first chillies originated in Central and South America. Archeological evidence indicates that chillies have been used by native groups in that part of the world for at least 8000 years. The Incas, Aztecs and Mayans all cultivated chillies. It was not until the Europeans began to explore the Americas that chillies reached Europe, Africa, Asia and other parts of the world.


A small round chilli called the Chiltepin or Tepin is a wild variety that grows in parts of Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico. It is sometimes called the mother of all chillies because it is thought to be related to the oldest form that all other chillies evolved from.

Aji Mochero

This Peruvian variety is reported to be have been originally cultivated more than 2000 years ago. It is actually from the capsicum chinense species, the species from which the hottest chillies in the world come from. This is why this variety is sometimes called Habanero Lemon or Habanero Limon (not to be confused with the Aji Limon from the baccatum species). The Aji Mochero heat ranges from 80,000 to 100,000 SHU, which means it is not as hot as the super hot and fiery varieties from the same species. Having grown in the high altitudes of the Andes for many years, it is a cold tolerant variety.



The Cayenne is one of the oldest heirloom chillies, having been cultivated for approximately 7000 years. Its name comes from the city of Cayenne in French Guiana. It was one of the first chillies introduced into Europe. It also made its way throughout Asia and became an essential ingredient in many Asian dishes. Cayenne was introduced into Britain in 1548, not from the Americas, but from India where it was already widely used.


The Habanero varieties originated in the Amazonian regions of Brazil, Peru and Columbia where it has been cultivated for thousands of years and eventually spread into Mexico along Yucatán Peninsula. Remains of cultivated Habaneros have been found at archaeological sites which date back 8500 years.


The Jalapeño has grown for thousands of years and seems to have first been cultivated by the Aztecs. The name Jalapeño is from Spanish meaning 'from Jalapa' which is the capital city of Veracruz, Mexico.

Manzano / Rocoto

These chillies have been found in archaeological remains of the Incas who were using it to flavour food and drinks more that 2000 years ago. These chillies are the only ones to have black seeds. Having originated in the high altitudes of the Andes in Bolivia and Peru, these varieties are cold tolerant. If not trimmed back, the Manzano and Rocoto plants will form a vine-like habit and can grow up to 3 metres. These varieties come from the capsicum pubescens species, which refers to the hairy nature of the leaves that are covered in a light fuzz.

Pimientos de Padron

This variety was taken from the Americas to Spain by monks during the 16th and 17th centuries. It gains its name from the town of Padron in Galicia in the northwest of Spain where it has been cultivated for centuries. It is renown as a frying pepper and is a popular Spanish tapa.