Capsicum chinense (syn. Capsicum sinense), commonly known as "Yellow
Lantern Chili", is a species of Chilli Pepper native to The
Americas. C. chinense chillies are well-known for their exceptional
Despite it's name, Capsicum chinense or "Chinese capsicum" is
misleading. All capsica originate in the New World. Nikolaus Joseph
von Jacquin (1727–1817), a Dutch botanist, erroneously named the
species in 1776, because he believed that they originated in China.
Within Capsicum chinense, the appearance and characteristics of
the plants can vary greatly. Varieties such as the well-known
habaneros grow to form a small, compact perennial bush approximately
half a metre in height. The flowers, like with most Capsicums, are
small and white with five petals. When it forms, the fruit varies
greatly in colour and shape, with red, orange, and yellow being the
most common final colours, but ones such as brown also being known.
Some varieties such as C. chinense "Trinidad Scorpion" form far
larger (up to two metre) high bushes, with very large fruit yields
offset only by the very long 80-120 day ripening time for such
fruits. Another similarity with other chilli species would be
shallow roots, which are very common in chillies.
Capsicum chinense is native to Central America, The Yucatan
region, and the Caribbean islands. In warm climates such as these it
behaves as a perennial and can last for several years, but like
others, cooler climates normally lead to C. chinense not surviving
the winter. However, it will readily germinate from last year's seed
the next growing season, and the cycle continues.
Cultivation and agriculture
Chinense peppers have been cultivated for hundreds of years in
their native regions and have only recently been introduced to areas
of Asia where they are also farmed. They are popular with many
gardeners for their bright colours (ornamental value) and for their
fruit in vegetable gardens.
C. chinense and its varieties have been used for centuries in
Yucatan and Caribbean-style cooking to add a significant amount of
heat to their traditional food. The chillies are mainly used in
stews and sauces, as well as marinade for joints of meat, usually
chicken. The peppers for these dishes are almost always
grown/sourced locally, as there are many people in the native
regions that grow chillies.
Western food at times also calls for some of these chillies. For
example, Habaneros (a group of C. chinense varieties) are commonly
used in hot sauces and extra-spicy salsas, due to the popularity of
Mexican food in Western culture. The peppers are also commonly used
to add moderate heat to very large quantities of soup and stew in
restaurants, in an effort to cut costs (1 hot chilli counts for
serveral mild ones).