See also Scoville Heat Unit.

Why are chili peppers hot?

Capsaicin protects the plant from attack by fungus.

Capsaicin discourages seed-eating rodents (but not seed-dispersing birds).

The ancestral home of the chili pepper is southeastern Bolivia. In the wetter areas, the plants are pungent, but less so in the dry areas. The more moisture, the higher the percentage of plants that were pungent.

David C. Haak, Leslie A. McGinnis, Douglas J. Levey and Joshua J. Tewksbury.
Why are not all chiles hot? A trade-off limits pungency.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B


Chile Pepper Institute at the New Mexico State University:

M. M. Wall and P.W. Bosland.
Analytical methods for color and pungency of chiles (capsicums).
Instrumental Methods in Food and Beverage Analysis. [issue title]
Developments in Food Science, vol. 39, pages 347-373 (1998).

A review of current methods by authorities at New Mexico State University.

Jean Andrews.
Peppers: the Domesticated Capsicums.
Austin: University of Texas Press, 1984.

Dave Dewitt.
The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia: Everything You'll Ever Need To Know About Hot Peppers, With More Than 100 Recipes.
Morrow Cookbooks, 1999.

Despite the title, not an encyclopedia at all, but a walk thorough a collection of recipes with a person who knows a lot about peppers.

Amal Naj.
Peppers. A Story of Hot Pursuits.
New York: Knopf, 1992.

Richard Schweid.
Hot Peppers. The Story of Cajuns and Capsicum.
Chapel Hill (NC): Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1999.


If you're interested in growing peppers, a nursery site at


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