Chilli originates from South America and was brought to Spain some five centuries back. It then spread to the rest of Europeand from there to Africa and Asia. Chilli is now an indispensable spice and is a basic ingredient in everyday cuisine all over the world. There are about 25 species of the genus Capsicum, several of which have been domesticated for cultivation. There are many different cultivated types, ranging from mild and sweet to hot and pungent. The pungency, or hotness, of a chilli is defined in Scoville units. This is the measure of degree of dilution required for the hotness of a chilli to be undetectable. The hotness of a chilli is determined by its degree of ripeness and its growing conditions. The pungent element in chillies comes from a chemical called Capsaicin. It is said that eating hot chillies triggers the release of endorphins (natural pain killers) in the body that is responsible for the feeling of well being that comes with eating spicy food.

Chillies can be grown in tropical and sub-tropical climates. A warm humid climate is good for growth and warm and dry weather enhances fruit maturity. Chillies are sensitive to water stress. Although light loamy or sandy loam is ideal, plants can grow on different soils provided they are well drained, well aerated and rich in organic matter. Chilli plants have weak branches and staking is important to prevent branches from breaking when they are heavy with fruits. Staking also prevents plants from toppling over due to their shallow root systems. Aphids, flea beetles, cutworms and hornworms are common pests of chillies and they are susceptible to rot, blossom end rot, anthracnose, tobacco mosaic virus, yellow leaf curl, bacterial spot and mildew. Choosing disease resistant varieties and the practice of sanitation is important. For insect pests, IPM strategies including washing off flea beetles, white fliesand aphids can work. Depending on the variety and temperature, fruits can be harvested after 60-95 days and picking can continue for about two months. The practice of picking green fruits one or two times is supposed to enhance plant growth and induce flowering and fruiting. The time and stage of harvesting is determined by the purpose. For example, green fruits can be picked and sold for salads while for dry chilies the fruits should not be under ripened or over ripened.

Aside from its use as food, chilli is used for traditional medicine, western medicine and as ornaments. Depending on the variety, chillies can be dried, bottled, pickled or frozen – without losing their hotness. They can be eaten fresh, or dried, in powdered or crushed form. It can also be ground or chopped and added to spice mixtures and dishes. Chilli contains a lot of Vitamin A, B and C. In traditional medicine chilli is used externally as a local irritant to counter other irritants, itching or pain. For example, diluted with soap liniment it is applied to joints to counter pain from rheumatism. In western medicine, capsicum is added as an ingredient to a number of over-the-counter medicines such as in the cough preparation Buttercup Syrup® . Chilli plants with ripe fruit or dried ripe chillies threaded on a string to make a "ristra" can be used as ornaments.

More information about chilli can be found at

For more information about the performance of chilli cultivars in relation to agro-ecological conditions, cultivation practices, the occurrence of pests and diseases and timing of the production, search the FAO data base at

Click the list below for more crop specific information
  1. General Information: Origin, distribution etc.

  2. Production / Productivity

  3. Chilli pests / diseases
  4. Post Harvest: