What is the Pepper Technology Group?

An association of UK pepper growers working to create sustainable and environmentally friendly methods of farming; develop the yield, quality and taste of UK peppers, and act as an information source for UK consumers.

How many varieties of peppers are there?

Peppers are part of the genus Capsicum which has approximately thirty known species, but only five of these are in common use.  Within these five species are thousands of different varieties, for example the Capsicum annuum which comprises the bell, jalapeño, and cayenne varieties, and the Capsicum chinense variety which includes some of the world's hottest chillies such as the scotch bonnet and the habanero.

How is the spiciness of peppers measured?

The universal scale for measuring the heat intensity of peppers is the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU).  It measures the amount of the chemical compound capsaicin (the ingredient that gives peppers their spice) contained in each pepper.  The scale was developed in 1912 by Wilbur Scoville and is still used by pepper growers worldwide today.

What is the world's spiciest pepper?

According to the Guinness World Records, this 'hotly' contested accolade is currently held by the Trinidad Scorpion ‘Butch T’.  Grown in Australia by The Chilli Factory, the ‘Butch T’ boasts a score of 1,463,700 SHU. On the other end of the scale is the bell pepper, which has a rating of zero on the Scoville Heat Unit scale.  Pepper spray used in law enforcement has a SHU score of up to 5,000,000 SHU!

What are the differences between capsicums, peppers and chillies?

Capsicum is the umbrella name of the plant which peppers come from, however capsicum is also the common name for bell peppers in Australia.  In the western world, the term 'pepper' usually refers to mild, non-spicy varieties such as bell peppers, whilst the term 'chilli' relates to any pepper which produces a hot sensation when eaten.

Where do peppers originate from?

Peppers are native to South America and have been farmed there since around 2000BC.  It is believed that Christopher Columbus was the first to export these taste sensations back to Europe in the 1400's, which in turn led to the introduction of the plant to Africa, China, Japan, and India.  In the 1500's they were introduced to Asia by Spanish and Portuguese explorers.  

When is the best time to buy peppers?

Harvesting in the UK is between April and September.  It is during these months that you will find the brightest and tastiest sweet and chilli peppers on the supermarket shelves.

What should I look for when buying peppers?

The brighter the colour the better.  Tight, shiny skin and few blemishes are telltale signs of a top quality pepper.  They should feel quite heavy for their size, there should be no wrinkles, and the stem should look fresh and green too.  And remember that in most cases the smaller the chilli pepper, the spicier it is!

How should peppers be stored?

Either in the vegetable compartment or in the top of your fridge away from possible contamination of raw meats, peppers will stay fresh for up to five days.  

Why are peppers different colours?

Like other fruits, peppers are green when they are unripe and contain fewer sugars. After ripening however, the final colour depends on the variety. The compounds that give the peppers their colour like anthocyanins and lycopene are well known to have health benefits.

What are the health benefits of eating peppers?

Peppers have very few calories and contain high levels of vitamin C, A and B6, all which are excellent antioxidants.  These vitamins help to protect against heart disease and high cholesterol, as well as boosting your immune system.  Capsaicin, the ingredient which makes chillies spicy, has been linked to weight loss and pain relief too.

How many peppers are grown in the UK each year?

Members of the Pepper Technology Group harvest nearly 100 hectares of sweet and chilli peppers per annum, producing nearly 140 million peppers.  

Are peppers related to black pepper?

No, peppercorns come from the Piper nigrum plant, while sweet and chilli peppers are from the Capsicum plant.  The similarity in the names is believed to have come from Europeans in the 1400's who thought they tasted similar to black pepper.

Where in the UK are the most pepper growers?

Pepper growers are spread out all over the UK (from Humberside in the north, West Sussex in the south, Somerset in the west and one grower in Northern Ireland) but the highest concentration of pepper growers in the UK is within 20 miles of London and the two main chilli growers are based in Bedfordshire and Lancashire. 

Why buy British Peppers?

In order to maintain high standards of production, British pepper growers are audited under a number of schemes. The UK’s ‘Red Tractor’ Assured Food Standards scheme is one of the most highly regulated in the world and all suppliers to UK supermarkets must pass an annual inspection under this scheme. Extra audits are carried out annually by the supermarkets themselves to ensure our products meet their unique criteria (e.g. Marks and Spencer’s Field to Fork and Tesco’s Natures Choice standards) There are other audits by organisations such as LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) and SEDEX to help growers attain high standards of environmental and staff welfare respectively. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is the next step and regulates marketing and packing before the fruit appears on the supermarket shelves. Look out for the Red Tractor logo on your fruit and vegetables to be sure you are buying food that has passed high standards of food safety and hygiene and environmental protection.



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