We grow all kinds of hot chili peppers at Stearns Farm.  Since this vegetable can be intimidating, I’ve put together an overview of the varieties we grow most years.The Hungarian Hot Wax is a yellow hot pepper, with five-inch smooth, waxy fruits that taper to a point. These are easy to stuff and to peel after roasting, as well as being thick-fleshed for frying. This pepper changes from yellow to orange to red, and they make the prettiest pickled peppers. They are definitely hot but not overly so.

Serrano Del Sols are early cylindrical fruits about 3-1/2 inches in size that are about twice the size of regular Serrano chilies. Serrano del Sol quickly sizes up, turning from dark green to scarlet, and has excellent, very hot flavor. This pepper originated on the mountain ridges north of Puebla and Hidalgo in Mexico. Rarely dried, they are usually eaten fresh in sauces, condiments, or as a key ingredient in fiery Mexican dishes.

Early Jalapenos are the smallish, sausage-shaped, blunt fruits. They mature early and change from dark green to red. Anaheim peppers are also small, similarly-shaped fruits that mature early. They start out dark green and change to red.

Long Red Cayennes are exactly as the name describes. They are an unbelievably long and slender cayenne pepper. These turn bright red for homemade hot sauce and dry well for dried hot pepper flakes. The 8-10″ long, thin-fleshed fruits taper to a skinny point. San Ardo peppers are an ancho poblano type of hot pepper. They are about six inches long and are a very flavorful hot pepper. They are hot but not excessively so. They also turn from green to red when mature.

The substance that gives these peppers their “heat” is called Capsaicin. Capsaicin has been widely studied for its pain-reducing effects, its cardiovascular benefits and its ability to help prevent ulcers. Capsaicin also effectively opens and drains congested nasal passages. The hotter the pepper the more Capsaicin they contain. Red chilies, in addition to their high Capsaicin content, have high amounts of vitamins A and C. Yellow and especially green chilies contain a significantly lower amount of both of these vitamins. Cayenne and red chilies have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol and triglycerides, and cultures that use hot peppers liberally in their diets have much lower rates of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism.

I do have some advice for you. Use care when preparing your hot peppers—the veins and the seeds are hotter than the flesh of the pepper, and I strongly advise wearing gloves when handling and chopping hot chilies. If you have ever had the experience of handling chilies and then rubbing your eye you know what I’m talking about.