Just the other day while checking on my chilli plants I found myself asking this exact question: Are chilli peppers a fruit or a vegetable? So I went on a quest to discover definitively where the chilli pepper fits in. The results were more interesting than I had expected, taking me on a cultural journey as well as a scientific one.
So, are chilli peppers a fruit or a vegetable? By botanical classification chilli peppers are a fruit; they form from the ovary of a pollinated flower, have multiple fleshy layers and at maturity contain seeds. When combined, these qualities are exclusive to fruit.
Going by the scientific definition, chilli peppers are definitely a fruit, but if you had to ask a chef the same question, you are bound to get a different answer. Depending on what type of cuisine is being discussed. the science may even be there to back them up.
Is a Chilli Pepper Definitively a Fruit?
According to botanical
Here are a few surprising examples of other fruit that are commonly treated as vegetables:
When looking at things from a culinary perspective, many fruits are treated as vegetables; the distinction is generally based on whether the fruit is sweet or
Dried chillies are sometimes used as a spicy addition to warm up a dish or as part of a tasty spice blend for barbecued meat. When dried in the form of powder or flakes we treat chillies as a spice. No contradictions here, by definition a spice can also be a fruit.
Even in the culinary world putting the chilli pepper into a simple category is not that easy and the deeper we dig, the more intriguing things get; so far we have only been discussing the chillies themselves, not the whole chilli plant.
During a holiday to the Philippines, I had the privilege of tasting a local Filipino version of chicken soup, which was seriously some of the best chicken soup I’ve ever tasted, the secret ingredient (well to me at least), chilli leaves. Chicken Tinola, as it’s known locally, is a combination of common ingredients like garlic, ginger and onions, with more exotic ones like green papaya, chilli leaves and moringa leaves. If you are interested in tasting this delicious dish for yourself check out a traditional Tinola recipe here
That’s not the only example of chilli leaves being used in cooking: In Thailand, they use chilli leaves to add
Getting back to definitions, when chilli leaves are eaten as part of a meal, they are scientifically classified as a vegetable. By definition, vegetables are any part of a plant that can be consumed and does not fall into the category of a fruit or seed. This includes leaves, roots, stems and flowers.
Wow, who knew that the humble chilli pepper could wear so many hats. What truly makes the chilli amazing is its versatility; it has so many different uses and has been adopted by such a wide variety of cultures, each preparing and using it in their own unique ways.
Are Chillies a Berry?
Looking at the chilli pepper itself we find that it belongs to a particular category of fruit, the berry. To be
Using the chilli as an example,
Sometimes the English translation of Latin names is misleading, not in the case of the Capsicum baccatum though, the Latin name for a particular species of chilli commonly grown in South America. When translated to English,
Are Chillies any Less Healthy for you Because they are a Fruit?
Chillies are no less healthy for you due to being classified as a fruit. In
These measurements are great, the trouble is though that we commonly only eat small amounts of hot pepper due to its spicy heat, which is caused by the chemical, capsaicin. Capsaicin reacts with certain receptors on our tongue and skin. These receptors send a false message to the brain that we are experiencing a localised increase in temperature, which we experience as pain. As a reaction to pain, the brain signals the release of endorphins which reduces our perception of pain and is also known to improve mood and reduce stress. Who doesn’t like a healthy mood boost now and then, so when weighing up the health benefits of the chilli pepper this is definitely an aspect to keep in mind.
Is it Safe to Eat Chilli Leaves?
Once cooked, chilli leaves from a few common Capsicum species are safe to eat in small quantities.
- Capsicum Annuum
- Capsicum Frutescens
Many plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) contain Solanine and groups of closely related chemicals that
The fact that chilli leaves have been part of Asian cuisine for a fairly long time now is an indicator that there is probably nothing to worry about if you are consuming chilli leaves in small quantities. Potatoes are known to leave trace amounts of Solanine in humans after being consumed; these levels drop off fairly quickly without causing any harm.
Are Chillies and Peppers the Same Thing?
Chillies (aka hot peppers) and sweet peppers are both from the Capsicum genus. There is a recessive gene that stops the production of capsaicin in sweet peppers. Various chilli varieties also have this gene and as a result are not hot at all.
Do Jalapenos Count as Vegetables?
As part of the Capsicum
Is Capsicum a Fruit?
Capsicum is most definitely a fruit. Different countries call sweet peppers capsicums and vice versa. Capsicum also refers to the genus that contains all species of chillies, hot and not.