Capsicum annuum (Jansen, 1981)

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Anethum graveolens
Jansen, Spices and medicinal plants in Ethiopia
Capsicum annuum (Jansen, 1981)
Coriandrum sativum

2.4 Capsicum annuum L.

Capsicum’: perhaps derived from Latin 'capsa' (box, case), referring to the almost dry box-like mature fruits; another explanation is that it is a latinization of the Greek 'capsicon', derived from 'kaptein' = 'to bite', referring to the pungency of the fruits. 'annuum': derived from Latin 'annus' (year): annual.

Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. ed. 1: p. 188 (1753).

Type: 'Habitat in America meridionali'. ’Capsicum caule herbaceo’ (specimen s.n. in van Royen herb. at L, herb. No 908244400, lecto.!).


  • C. frutescens L., Sp. Pl. ed. 1: p. 189 (1753).
  • C. abyssinicum Rich., Tent. fior. Abyss. 2: p. 96-97 (1851).
  • C. annuum L. var. acuminatum Fingerh., Monogr. Gen. Caps.: p. 13(c), t. 2(c) (1832).
  • C. annuum L. var. cordiforme (Mill.) Sendtner, FI. Bras. 10: p. 148 (1846).
  • C. annuum L. var. oblongo-conicum (Dunal) Cuf., Bull. Jard. Bot. État Brux. 33(3), suppl.: p. 860 (1963).

For more synonyms see Irish, 1898.


  • 1832: Fingerhuth, Monographia generis Capsici. (tax.) 1851: Richard, Tent. fl. Abyss. 2: p. 96-97. (tax .)


  • 1852: Dunal, Capsicum, in: DC, Prodr. 13, 1: p. 411-429. (tax.)
  • 1874: Flückiger & Hanbury, Pharmacographia: p. 406-409. (use)
  • 1891: Kuntze, Revisio Generum Plantarum 2: p. 449-450. (tax.)
  • 1891: Wettstein, Solanaceae, in: Engler & Prantl, Die nat. Pflanzenfam., ed. 1, 4, 3: p. 20-21. (tax.)
  • 1895: Engler, Pflanzenw. Ost-Afrikas & Nachbargebiete, B, Nutzpflanzen: p. 280-282. (tax. + agric.)
  • 1898: Irish, A revision of the genus Capsicum with special reference to the garden varieties, Ann. Rep. Missouri Bot. Gard. 9: p. 53-110. (tax.)
  • 1906: Wright, Capsicum, in: Flora trop. Afr. 4, 2: p. 250-253. (tax.) 1912: Ridley, Spices: p. 360-383. (agric.)
  • 1912: Chiovenda, Osservazioni botaniche, agrarie ed industriali, Monog. rapp. col. 24: p. 29-31. (bot.)
  • 1913: Kostlan, Die Landwirtschaft in Abessinien 1, Beih. Tropenpflanzer 14: p. 232. (agric.)
  • 1919: Hedrick, Sturtevant's notes on edible plants, Rep. New York Agric. Exp. Stat.: p. 134-140. (tax. + agric.)
  • 1927: Marzell, Capsicum, in: Hegi, Illustr. 1. Mittel-Eur., ed. 1, B. 5, 4: p. 2556-2558. (tax. + agric.)
  • 1933: Redgrove, Spices and condiments: p. 191-206. (agric.)
  • 1934: Bois, Les plantes alimentaires chez tous les peuples et à travers les âges, 3, Plantes à épices, à aromates, à condiments: p. 68-75. (agric.)
  • 1940: Paul, A study of the genus Capsicum with special reference to the dry chilli, Trop. Agriculturist, 94: p. 10-18, 63-78, 131-145, 198-213, 271-281, 332-353. (agric.)
  • 1946: Baldrati, Piante officinali dell'Africa orientale, Centra Studi Colon. 32: p. 36-37. (use)
  • 1949: Zeijlstra, Spaanse peper, in: van Hall & v.d. Koppel, De landbouw in de Indische archipel, 2B, Genotmiddelen en specerijen: p. 719-727. (agric.)
  • 1950: Baldrati, Trattato delle coltivazioni tropicali e sub-tropicali: p. 199-202. (agric.)
  • 1951: Smith & Heiser, Taxonomic and genetic studies on the cultivated peppers, C. annuum L. and C. frutescens L., Am. Journ. Bot. 38: p. 362-367. (tax.)
  • 1953: Heiser & Smith, The cultivated Capsicum peppers, Econ. Bot. 7(3): p. 214-227. (tax. + agric.)
  • 1955: Dalziel, Useful pl. W. Trop. Afr., ed. 2: p. 427-428. (use)
  • 1956: Shinners, Technical names for the cultivated Capsicum peppers, Baileya 4: p. 81-83. (tax.)
  • 1957: Ferrara, Tecnologia delle spezie, Rivista Agric. subtrop. & trop.: p. 202-206. (use)
  • 1960: Lemordant, Les plantes éthiopiennes: p. 16. (use)
  • 1963: Cufodontis, Enumeratio, Bull. Jard. Bot. État Brux. 33(3), suppl.: p. 859-861. (tax.)
  • 1963: Siegenthaler, Useful plants of Ethiopia, Exp. Stn. Bull. 14: p. 6. (use)
  • 1964: Maistre, Les plantes à épices: p. 221-234. (agric.)
  • 1966: Terpo, Kritische Revision der wildwachsenden Arten und der kultivierten Sorten der Gattung Capsicum L., Feddes Rep. 72: p. 155-191. (tax.)
  • 1968: Purseglove, Tropical crops, Dicotyl. 2: p. 524-530. (agric.)
  • 1968: Eshbaugh, A nomenclatural note on the genus Capsicum, Taxon 17:_Q. 51-52. (tax.)
  • 1968: Agren & Gibson, Food composition table for use in Ethiopia, CNU-ENI report 16: p. 15. (chem.)
  • 1969: Rosengarten, The book of spices: p. 128-141. (use)
  • 1969: Parry, Spices, 1: p.166-171; 2: p. 12-22. (use)
  • 1969: Heiser & Pickersgill, Names for the cultivated Capsicum species, Taxon 18: p. 277-283. (tax.)
  • 1971: Yanney-Ewusie, Taxonomic revision of the genus Capsicum in W. Africa, Mitt. bot. Staatss. München 10: p. 253-255. (tax.)
  • 1971: Lemordant, Contribution à l'ethnobotanique éthiopienne, Journ. Agric. Trop. Bot. Appt. 18(1/6): p. 32-33, 160. (use)
  • 1972: Rouanet, Un programme d'amélioration variétale pour la culture du piment à Awasa (Ethiopie), Agron. Trop.: p. 1032-1035. (agric.)


  • 1972: Alkamper, Capsicum-Anbau in Àthiopien für Gewürz- und Farbezwecke, Bodenkultur 23: p. 97-107. (agric.)
  • 1973: Bezuneh, The collection and evaluation of Ethiopian pepper cultivars for use in the development of improved commercial types, Techn. comm. ISHS 33: p. 143-147. (agric.)
  • 1974: D'Arcy & Eshbaugh, New world peppers north of Columbia, Baileya 19: p. 93-105. (tax.)
  • 1976: Amare Getahun, Sorne common medicinal and poisonous plants used in Ethiopian folk medicine: p. 52. (use)
  • 1978: Eshbaugh, The taxonomy of the genus Capsicum, Acta Hort. 15: p. 13-26. (tax.)

Local names

  • berbere, schirba, mitmita, karya (Amarinia);
  • afrindschi (Agau);
  • filfil-ghedut (Somali);
  • ademedda (Gambella).

Trade names

  • chilli, bird pepper, Cayenne pepper, red pepper, Capsicum-pepper (English);
  • piment, piment enragé, piment z'oiseau (French);
  • Spanischer Pfeffer, Roter Pfeffer, Beissbeere (German).

Geographic distribution

Although Capsicum peppers are now grown in every country of the world where they will grow, they probably originated from Central and South America. It is known that Columbus introduced Capsicum fruits from the New World to Spain towards the end of the 15th Century and that the plant spread rapidly over the whole world in the 16th Century. The Spaniards and the Portuguese were in fact searching for the true pepper (Piper nigrum L.), and understood that Capsicum pepper was a valuable spice. It is even more pungent than the true pepper and rather easy to grow (Purseglove, 1968). It is astonishing how this spice became an almost indispensable dietary ingredient for many people in the tropics (e.g. Africa, India, Indonesia).

In Ethiopia too, Capsicum is ubiquitous. The fruits can be found on almost every market and the plant is cultivated in every province. It is the most important spice of the country. According to Alkamper (1972) ca 2.5% (230 000 ha) of Ethiopian arable land is cropped with Capsicum every year. The main centres of cultivation are Ghion, Bako and Harar (Alkamper, 1972; Herb. WAG).


A perennial, erect herb, often cultivated as an annual, sometimes suffruticose, 0.5-1.5 rn high, with a strong brown taproot and many brownish sideroots.

  • Stem: irregularly angular to subterete, up 1 cm diam., often woody at base, much branched, sparsely to densely tomentose (rarely glabrous), especially near branchings, green to brown-green, often with purplish spots near nodes.
  • Leaves alternate, simple, upper ones often almost opposite; petiole angular to subterete, up to 10 cm long, usually tomentose, rarely glabrous, light-green; blade ovate, up to 10(-16) x 5(-8) cm, acuminate at apex, usually attenuate at base, subglabrous to tomentose, usually tomentose on veins and near vein-axils, especially so on the veins beneath, light to dark-green, always paler-green beneath, margin sub-entire, serrulate to papillate or ciliate.


Fig. 4. Capsicum annuum L.- 1. habit plant part with flowers and fruits (⅔x); 2. underside flower (2x); 3. upperside flower (2x); 4. opened corolla with stamens (2x); 5. pistil (4x); 6. cross-section ovary (8x); 7. seed (4x); 8. seedling (⅔x). -1. PJ 869; 2-6. PJ 841 (spirit mat.); 7. PJ 916; 8. PJ 240 (spirit mat.).


  • Inflorescence: flowers terminal or apparently axillary, solitary or sometimes in groups of 2-5, usually 5-merous, rarely 6-7-merous; pedicel irregularly ribbed, up to 3 cm long in flower, up to 8 cm long in fruit, slightly widening at apex, glabrous to slightly tomentose, light-green, pendulous or (sub)erect.
  • Calyx cup-shaped, 1-5 mm long, 2-6 mm in diam., persistent and enlarging in fruit, usually with 5 conspicuous, usually slightly thickened teeth up to 1 mm long, or truncate, glabrous to sparsely tomentose, light-green.
  • Corolla campanulate to rotate, tube 3-7 mm long, the 5 lobes ovate, 3-10 x 3-8 mm, acuminate, glabrous, margin serrulately papillate or ciliate, white, dingy white, yellow-white or greenish-white.
  • Androecium: stamens 5; basal part of filaments adnate to corolla tube and 1-3 mm long, widened, usually ending in two lateral teeth up to 1 mm long; free filament part filiform, 2.5-6 mm long, glabrous, white or purplish; anthers 2.5-4 x 1-2 mm, dark-green to blackish, dehiscing by two lateral longitudinal slits.
  • Gynoecium: ovary conical, 2-5.5 mm long, 1-4 mm diam., glabrous, dark-green, sometimes finely spotted with dark red-brown, 2(-3)-locular, placentation axile; style filiform, 2.5-5.5 mm long, white or purplish; stigma capitate, light-green to yellow.
  • Fruit a non-pulpy berry, very variable in size and shape, always more or less conical, 1-19 cm long, 0.5-4.5 cm diam.; apex acuminate or blunt, base rounded or obtuse, persistent calyx sometimes surrounding base of fruit; immature fruits light to dark-green, turning yellow-orange and finally light to dark, often bright red when mature; near the apex the fruit is usually 1-locular.
  • Seed orbicular, flattened near the hilum, 3-4.5 mm diam. , ca 1 mm thick, slightly rugose, yellow; embryo white, strongly curved, embedded in copious grey endosperm.
  • Seedling: germination epigeal; taproot and side-roots whitish; hypocotyl 11-20 mm long, glabrous to slightly tomentose, green or purplish-green; cotyledons opposite, with a petiole 2-10(-14) mm long and an ovate-acuminate to triangular blade, 1-3 cm long, 2-6 mm wide, glabrous, usually light-green; epicotyl 2-14 mm long, usually sparsely tomentose, green to purplish-green.

Taxonomic notes

(1) In 1753, Linnaeus described two Capsicum species: C. annuum ('caule herbaceo', 'habitat in America meridionali', annual) and C. frutescens ('caule fruticoso', 'habitat in India', perennial). The only difference between the two species indicated by Linnaeus is the herbaceous (annual) versus the woody (perennial) character. In 1762, in the second edition of Sp. Pl., Linnaeus added another distinguishing characteristic: C. annuum ('caule herbaceo, pedunculis solitariis') and C. frutescens ('caule fruticoso, pedunculis geminis'), and he remarked that the fruits of both species showed an unusual variation. On the basis of these differences (C. annuum, annual, single pedicels; C. frutescens, perennial, paired pedicels), it is impossible to distinguish with certainty between the two species. Many authors have observed that C. annuum L. can also become woody and behave like a perennial, and may sometimes even have paired pedicels. Moreover, C. frutescens may have single


Fig. 5. Capsicum annuum L. -1-13. different shapes of mature fruits (⅔x). -1. PJ 916; 2. PJ 933; 3. PJ 987; 4. PJ 4398; 5. PJ 4532; 6. PJ 4534; 7. PJ 960; 8. PJ 4401; 9. PJ 1000; 10. PJ 904; 11. PJ 977; 12. PJ 966; 13. PJ 1001.


pedicels. In 1891, Kuntze joined the two species and considered the taxon C. frutescens L. as a variety of C. annuum L. In 1923 Bailey (as cited by Heiser & Pickersgill, 1969) preferred the name C. frutescens L. for the united taxa and considered C. annuum L. as a synonym of C. frutescens. Bailey's choice, however, conflicted with the Rules of the Botanical Code, so Kuntze's choice had to be followed.

Most current authors again distinguish the two Linnaean 'species', probably partly through the recent research of Smith & Heiser (1951). In their view, C. annuum L. has single pedicels (rarely paired), white, dingy-white or rarely purplish corollas, and C. frutescens L. has 1-6 pedicels at one node (one pedicel per node only in adverse growing conditions) and waxy, greenish-white corollas. Crosses between the two 'species' resulted in non-viable seed when C. annuum was used as the mother, and only a few viable seeds when C. frutescens was used as the mother parent. Although the differences between the two taxa as defined by Smith & Heiser (1951) seem to be clear, their 'key' frequently does not work for many specimens from Ethiopia, as combinations of characteristics of the two taxa occur often. Therefore I do not make the distinction for the plants originating from Ethiopia and consider all Ethiopian cultivated Capsicum taxa as belonging to one species: Capsicum annuum L.

(2) C. annuum L. has been typified by D'Arcy & Eshbaugh (Baileya 19: p. 98, 1974). They designated as the lectotype Herb. Hort. Cliff. 59 (BM). On the same page, however, they stated: 'The lectotype designated above is a specimen in flower and fruit with the numeral '1' and the word ’annuum’ written at the bottom of the sheet. This specimen is reproduced on microfiche IDC LINN 141: II. 3'. But, IDC LINN 141: II. 3 is a plant of the Linnaean herbarium, specimen LINN 249.1, and not the plant of the Hort. Cliff. herbarium. D'Arcy & Eshbaugh thus designated two different plant specimens as the lectotype of C. annuum. As it is not clear which of the two they meant, I reject both choices and designate as lectotype of C. annuum L. the specimen in the van Royen herbarium at Leiden (L): van Royen s.n., herbarium number 908244400. This choice seems better founded. Linnaeus first citation in Sp. Pl. under C. annuum is 'Roy .lugdb. 426 '. In fact, Linnaeus's descriptive phrase of the protologue 'caule herbaceo' is taken directly from A. v. Royen, Florae Leydensis: p. 426, 1740. The lectotype specimen in the van Royen herbarium (L) shows two plant parts: one part with leaves and three fruits, the other part with leaves, flowerbuds, flowers and one fruit. The specimens in the Hort. Cliff. and in the LINN herbarium are much less illustrative.

(3) C. annuum has long been cultivated and, probably as a result of human selection, many forms of it developed. Many authors tried to order this taxon and, as the variability is most clearly expressed in the fruit shape, most classifications were based on that. We now know that classifications based on fruit shape alone are without much practical value, as the shape of the fruit shows a continuum between the extremes. Fingerhuth revised the genus Capsicum in 1832 and recognized 25 species and 28 botanical varieties. In 1852, Dunal recorded 50 species with many varieties. In 1898, Irish reduced the number of cultivated Capsicum species to two: C. annuum and C. frutescens, and taxa, earlier described as species, were reduced to varieties (cultivars now). Although the classification of Irish is based on the annual-perennial character


for the species, and on fruit shape and calyx characters below the species level (and hence difficult to follow now), his names are well known and are still often used. Within C. frutescens, he only distinguished one variety: var. baccatum (L.) Irish (ovate to almost round fruits). Within C. annuum, he distinguished seven varieties. Their most important characters as well as the cultivars belonging to them are given in Table 2.

In 1953, Heiser & Smith published a valuable report on the cultivated Capsicum peppers. Within cultivated Capsicum, they distinguished four species: (1) C. pubescens R. & P.: corolla lobes purple, seed black, leaves rugose, stem and leaves rather densely pubescent; (2) C. pendulum Willd.: corolla white with yellow or tan markings on the throat and yellow anthers; (3) C. frutescens L.: corolla greenish-white, pedicels paired or severa) at a node (seldom solitary); (4) C. annuum L.: corolla clear white or dingy white, rarely purple, pedicels solitary, seldom paired at a node. In 1957 they added a fifth species: (5) C. chinense Jacq.: leaves broad wrinkled, fruits bonnet shaped.

In 1964, Heiser subdivided C. annuum into two varieties: var. annuum (with the 'cultivated' forms) and var. minimum (Miller) Heiser (with the 'spontaneous' forms). In 1968 Eshbaugh showed that the name C. pendulum had to be changed into C. baccatum L. on nomenclatural grounds and he subdivided C. baccatum into two varieties: var. baccatum for the 'spontaneous' forms, and var. pendulum (Willd.) Eshbaugh for the 'cultivated' forms. These subdivisions of Heiser and Eshbaugh into different varieties for cultivated and spontaneous forms seem rather artificial.

In 1966, Terpo stated that all cultivated Capsicum belonged to one species: C. annuum L. This taxon he subdivided into ssp. baccatum (L.) Terpo and three convarieties: annuum, longum and grossum. Although he declared that one had to follow the Rules of the Botanical Code, he designated no type specimens for his numerous taxa and gave only vague, undistinctive descriptions for the 59 taxa he created.

In 1974 D'Arcy & Eshbaugh changed the name C. annuum L. var. minimum (Miller) Heiser into C. annuum L. var. aviculare (Dierbach) D'Arcy & Eshbaugh for reasons of priority.

(4) The material I studied included no other taxa than C. annuum L. (including C. frutescens L.). C. annuum was not subdivided as this was impossible on the basis of morphology of the plants alone. If other characters like disease resistance, yield, growth period and pungency were also taken into account, the Ethiopian Capsicum material would certainly produce some valuable cultivars. For designation of Ethiopian cultivars, however, more research like that of Alkamper (1972), Rouanet (1972) and Bezuneh (1973) is needed, and the eventual results ought to be based on conserved materials in order to achieve reliable results and dependable data.

(5) Differences between plants raised at Wageningen and at Alemaya were negligible.

(6) The description is based on the following specimens:

Arussi Baie Begemdir Kofale market: SL 1282; Sire market: SL 142, SL 145. Goba market: SL 1218, SL 1222; Goro market: SL 1258-1259. Gondar market: SL 865, SL 918-919; Infranz market: SL 829.


Table 2. Capsicum annuum L. varieties as classified by Irish, 1898.

variety plant height (cm) petiole length (cm) leaf-blade size (cm) pedicel erect or pendent corolla colour corolla width (cm) fruit size (Iength, diam.) (cm) pungency fruit form 'cultivars' Conoides Fasciculatum Acuminatum Longum 30-75 30-45 45-75 45-75 1-H: ca 10 2-2! long 5-7! x !-5 9! x 3 5-9 x 2!-5 6-10 x 4-6! e e e&p e&p green-white white dingy white dingy white 1-H: ca 2 1-3 2-3 2-3 x t-H 7! x! 1-t H x t-t 7!-30 x 2-4! extreme acrid extreme mild to extreme subconical cylindra- slender, tapering base oblong cylin- conical, ± curved flat or drical, acumi- straight or depressed nate or obtuse curved Coral Gem Tabasco Orange-Red- Cluster Red Cluster Chilli Black Nubian Yellow Cluster Yellow Chili Long Red Long Cayenne County Fair Long Y ellow Cardinal Cayenne Long Yellow Nepal Chilli Elephant's trunk Procopp's giant Ivory Tusk Grossum Abbreviatum Cerasiforme 45-60 30-60 30-60 5-7! 1-2! 7!-12! x 5!-9 5-10 x 3-7 3-9 x 1-4 e&p e&p e&p dingy white dingy white dingy white 2-3 2 2-3 7!-15 x 5 2-5 long 1!-2! in diam. mild extreme large, oblate ovate spherical suboblong or ± rugose cordate oblate trun ca te, 3-4-Iobed Emperor Celestial Little Gem Monstrous Etna Prince of Wales Sweet Spanish Kaleidoscope Cherry Bell Red Wrinkled Yellow Cherry Sweet Moun- Princess of Oxheart tain Wales Yellow Ox- Ruby King heart Brazilian Upright Golden Upright Squash Yellow Squash


Gemu Gofa Arba Minch, forest between lake Abaye & lake Chamo: Pl 3824; 31 km from Gojam Hararge Illubabor Kef a Shoa Sidamo Wollega Wollo Grown at Soddo, on road to Arha Minch: WP 2970; 108 km from Soddo, on road to Arba Minch: WP 3199. Dedjen market: SL 761; Elias market: SL 797-799; Lumane market: SL 735. Alemaya, cultivated at College of Agriculture: Pl 1408-1475, Pl 1808-1814, Pl 2083-2084, Pl 2584-2707, Pl 2812, Pl 2910-2921, Pl 3118-3141, Pl 3437-3444,P14017-4023,P14053-4056,P14076-4212,P14321-4329,P1 4386-4416, Pl 4529-4566, Pl 4722-4760, Pl 4823, Pl 4833-4842, Pl 5124-5130, Pl 5132, Pl 5219-5220, Pl 5890-5894, Pl 7018-7022; Alemaya, in garden: WP 340B, WP 406, WP 449, WP 459, WP 802; Alemaya market: WP 144, WP 157-158, SL 26, Bos 8064, Bos 8072-8073, Bos 8076; Asbe Tefari market: SL 458-459; Assebot market: SL 703-705; Bedeisa market: SL 672; Bedeno market: SL 311-315; Bisadimo, in garden: WP 980; Chelenko market: SL 240, SL 244, SL 257, SL 266; Deder market: SL 370-372; Dire Dawa market: Bos 8374, Bos 8379-8380, Bos 8382, Pl 1031-1032, Pl 1049-1050; Feddis market: SL 185; Gelemso market: SL 629; Gursum market: Pl 4468-4469; Harar market: WP 108, Bos 8048, Bos 8057, Pl 1554; lijiga market: SL 359; Karra market: SL 589-592; Kuni market: SL 575; Lange market: SL 279, SL 293-294, SL 299; Moulu market: SL 435-438, SL 457; Waichu market: SL 527-529. Djemezo market: SL 1439, SL 1450-1451; Gambella, in garden: Pl 5054; Gambella market: Pl 5107, Pl 5110; Metu market: SL 1493-1496. Agaro market: SL 83, SL 88, SL 107; Bonga market: SL 1416, Pl 2200, Pl 2202, Pl 2208; limma, Institute of Agricultural Research: Pl 5852; Jimma market: WP 3303-3307. Alelu market: SL 1315; Ambo market: Pl 1218; Bako market: Pl 1209-1210; Bulbulla market: Pl 3901-3902; Kuyera market: SL 1201-1202; Melkassa, cultivated in garden of Institute of Agricultural Research (Nazareth): Pl 2407-2408, Pl 2410-2415, Pl 3573-3575, PJ 3579-3585, Pl 4696-4698, Pl 4702-4708, Pl 4826-4828, Pl 5114-5118; Robi market: SL 1164-1166; Shashemene market: WP 2601-2602, SL 1309-1311. Adillo market: PJ 3666-3667; Awassa market: SL 1323-1326; Kebre Mengist market: SL 1348; Negele market: SL 1396: Tafari Kele market: WP 4060; Wondo market: WP 2809; Wondo, 12 km on road to Dilla, market: WP 4057. Alem taferi market: SL 1543; Bekedjama market: SL 1573-1576; Defno market: SL 1549-1551; Dembidolo market: SL 1529-1530; Ghimbi market: Pl 1184; Nekemt market: Pl 1205. Bati market: SL 1035-1037, SL 1058; Dessie market: SL 1099-1100; Haik market: SL 1125-1127, SL 1131; Kombolcha market: SL 987-988. Wageningen WP 5999-6000, WP 6104-6106, WP 6110-6113, WP 6117-6118, WP 6490, WP 7151-7153, Pl 183-193, Pl 216-220, Pl 222-236, Pl 239-294, Pl 311-315, Pl 340, Pl 404-505, Pl 730-742, Pl 763-796, Pl ~40-877, Pl 883-888, Pl 895-908, Pl 911-936, Pl 938-1013, Pl 1015-1028.

The following specimens, originating from Ethiopia, were seen (all at Fr): 1. Baldrati 2454, 2455, 3542; A. Bellini 466; E. Chiovenda 2074; G. Cufodontis 292, 612; A. Fiori 10; R. Guidotti 809, 81 0; A. Pappi 8543; A. Terracciano & A. Pappi 2823; A. Vatova 1565, 1566, 1744.


In general, Capsicum is grown in the tropics and subtropics. In temperate climates, it can be cultivated in areas where vines will grow (Zeijlstra, 1949). According to


Purseglove (1968), Capsicum is grown in the tropics up to ca 2000 m altitude or higher.

In Ethiopia, it is grown at altitude 1000-2500 m (Alkamper, 1972) but, according to Simoons (1960), even at 3000 m in the Semeyen mountains. At high altitudes, however, the fruits do not ripen well and are difficult to dry. The main areas of cultivation in Ethiopia are at altitude 1500-2000 m. A warm humid period is required during growth, a dry period for the ripening and harvesting.

The optimum temperature range for its growth is 20-25°C (Paul, 1940; Maistre, 1964). The plants withstand much higher temperatures (35°C or more) and then blossom earlier and the fruits ripen quicker. However, high temperatures generally cause a lower fruit setting (Paul, 1940). For optimum fruit setting Paul (1940) reported 15-20°C as being the best temperature. Temperatures below 10°C retard growth and frost kills the plants (Maistre, 1964). So Capsicum can be grown in the temperature range (10-)15-25(-35)°C.

According to Paul (1940), Capsicum peppers require a moderately short day for fruiting, although only days with more than 15 h light increased the time taken to the flowering stage in his experiments.

Capsicum requires an annual rainfall of ca 600-1250 mm (Maistre, 1964; Purseglove, 1968), preferably with a rainy and a dry season. The moistness of the soil influences the number of fruits formed. Best soils for Capsicum growth have a water capacity of 55% (Maistre, 1964). If there is too much rain, fruit sets poorly or rots. Waterlogging of the plants, even for a short time, causes leaf shedding (Maistre, 1964; Purseglove, 1968).

The flowers are open for 2-3 days (Purseglove, 1968). They are both self and cross pollinated. Cross-pollination may vary from 2 to 78%, but is normally ca 14-16% (Paul, 1940; Purseglove, 1968). Rouanet (1969) observed a cross-poilination of 8% in Awassa, Ethiopia. Bees, flies, thrips and ants cause the cross-pollination (Paul, 1940). Under normal circumstances, ca 40-50% of the flowers set fruit (Purseglove, 1968).

Purseglove (1968) reported that light loamy soils, rich in lime, are best suited for Capsicum cultivation, but that many soils are suitable if they are well drained. Duke & Terrell (1974) indicated that Capsicum can grow on soils with pH 4.5 or more.


C. annuum is propagated by seed. As the seed remains viable for ca 2-3 years without special conservation and as every healthy ripe fruit contains many seeds, seed is always available when needed. Even hybrid F1 seed can be produced rather cheaply since the discovery of the cytoplasmicaily inherited male sterility (Purseglove, 1968). Paul (1940) recommended disinfection of the seed to prevent leaf-spot and fruit-diseases. Before sowing, the seed should be soaked overnight in water and then dipped in a copper sulphate solution (12.5 g/1) for 8 min, dried for 30 min and dusted with air-slaked lime. In general, however, one should be careful with disinfection of Capsicum seed, as they are more sensitive to disinfectants than many others (Paul, 1940). Paul (1940) reported that seed 6 months old germinated better than fresh seed.


Usually seed is sown in nurseries. The preparation of a good nursery is essential for raising of vigorous seedlings. Compost (ca 10-15 kg/m2) is recommended. For a nursery of ca 250m2, ca 2 kg seed is needed and can then be planted out over 1 ha. The seed is sown at ca 0.5 cm depth and the soil should be protected against sunshine and heavy rainfall (Paul, 1940). In Ethiopia, this is often done by small low sheds above the nursery, covered with straw (Kostlan, 1913). In Ceylon, the soil is covered with straw and palm leaves (Paul, 1940). In temperate climates, seed can be sown under glass to avoid late night-frosts (Irish, 1898).

Germination time depends on the cultivar used, the temperature and the water supply and the viability of the seeds. Paul (1940) reported the influence of the temperature on germination (Table 3).

At Alemaya, germination took 1-2 months (rather low temperatures at night, low rainfall, sown directly in the field). After emergence of the cotyledons (ca 7 days), shade should be removed. After ca 4 weeks, the young plants show first flower buds and then are ready for transplanting. Paul (1940) recommended topping of the young plants to obtain better branching. For good results, the field must first be manured with well-decomposed dung or compost (ca 50 t/ha) (Maistre, 1964). The plants in the field are usually spaced at 60-90 cm apart in all directions or in rows, 90 cm a part, 30 cm within the rows (Purseglove, 1968). The Ethiopian farmer normally transplants in plots ca 1.20 m wide without rows at a planting density of 5-15/m2. At Bako, the optimum was ca 10 plants per m2 (50 x 20 cm) (Alkamper, 1972).

Application of fertilizers is recommended, especially when little or no organic manure is applied. Maistre (1964) recommended (NH4)2SO4 at 200-250 kg/ha when transplanting and another 350-550 kg/ha during flowering.

In Ethiopia Capsicum is usually cultivated on rather small plots (100-1000 m2), near the farmer's house (Alkamper, 1972). This is done because this culture requires much manual labour and theft can be easier prevented. Moreover, cattle manure can be applied easier, as the cattle are brought near the house at night. Six to eight weeks before the long rainy season, nurseries are laid out and the plants are transplanted as soon as the rain starts. If no dung is available, the Ethiopians prefer fallow land for the Capsicum crop (Alkamper, 1972). About the influence of fertilizers on Capsicum growth little is known for Ethiopian conditions.

Alkamper (1972) reported that in trials at Awassa a combination of 200 kg N/ha and 44 kg P/ha gave the highest yield; at Bako, 80-120 kg N/ha and 35-52 kg P/ha gave good results, but no larger amounts were tested. The fertilizers were applied

Table 3. Effect of temperature on germination of Capsicum annuum (from Paul, 1940). (d = days)

Temp. (°C) 10- 15 15-20 20-30 30-40 Germination time ( d) 30-31 19-20 10- 11 5- 6 Germinated seed (%) 59 72 78 74


before transplanting as urea and calciumphosphate Ca3(PO4)2. Alkamper reported almost the same high yield for Capsicum grown on arable land manured with dung and 35 kg P/ha, as on arable land only manured with 80 kg N/ha and 35 kg P/ha. In his opinion, it is certainly worthwhile, even for poor farmers, to calculate the profit of even a small amount of fertilizer. In 1970-1971 at Bako, an investment of 100-150 E$/ha for fertilizers, could increase yield of fruits by 1000 kg/ha, worth 600-1000 E$/ha.

Weed control is necessary in Capsicum, as badly cleaned fields give lower yields (Alkamper, 1972; and many other authors). About 1.5 month after transplanting, the plants start flowering and continue to flower for ca 3 months (Paul, 1940). One month after flowering starts, picking of green fruits can begin. According to Paul (1940) picking of fully developed but green chillies gives a much higher yield than picking of ripe red fruits only. Apparently when the fruits are picked green, the plant is stimulated to produce more flowers and fruits. Even when only red ripe fruits are required, a first picking of green fruits and afterwards only ripe red fruits gives a higher yield of red fruits than when only red fruits are harvested from the beginning (Paul, 1940). This statement is not confirmed by other authors. The harvest of red fruits can start ca 4-5 months after germination and may continue for some months (picking ca every two weeks). Towards the end of the harvest the fruits generally become much smaller.

At Alemaya and at Wageningen, flowering started 4-5 months after sowing. Harvest of red fruits was possible at Alemaya 6-8 months after sowing, at Wageningen after 7-9 months.

According to Maistre (1964) and Purseglove (1968), the most important diseases of Capsicum are:

  • Mosaic and leaf-curl viruses, perhaps transmitted by the thrips Scirtothrips dorsalis H.
  • Fruit rot, caused by Colletotrichum capsici (Synd.) Butl. & Bisby
  • Anthracnose, caused by Colletotrichum nigrum Ell. & Halst.
  • Die-Back, caused by Glomerella piperata, which is stimulated by wet conditions.

In Ethiopia, Stewart & Dagnatchew (1967) observed the following diseases in Capsicum:

  • Ascochyta sp., on leaves, Shoa Prov.
  • Cercospora capsici Heald & Wolf, leaf spot, Kefa Prov.
  • Cercospora unamunoi Castell, velvet leaf spot, common every province
  • Colletotrichum capsici (Synd.) Butl. & Bisby, fruit rot, Shoa Prov.
  • Leveillula taurica (Lev.) Arn., powdery mildew, Kefa, Harar, Shoa Prov.
  • Oidiopsis sicula Scalia, powdery mildew, Eritrea, Shoa Prov.
  • Rhizoctonia solani Kuehn, root rot, Shoa Prov.

In Ethiopia both green and red fruits are harvested and used. The undried fruits cannot be kept for long. Paul (1940) reported that they could be kept for 40 days at 0 °C and 10 days at 21 °C. So the normal procedure is to dry the ripe fruits after harvest. This is usually done in the sun and it takes ca 3-15 days. The fruits should be exposed to the sun in thin layers (2-3 fruits thick). If partial after-ripening is also required, this should be done in the shade. If partly green fruits are directly exposed to the sun, white patches appear on the fruits. After-ripening is possible if fruits are


stored indoors for ca two days at 20-25°C. Fruits can be artificially dried at temperatures up to 55°C and take ca 2-3 days (Paul, 1940). During drying, the fruits lose up to ca 70% of their weight. Dry fruits can be kept for a very long time (Paul, 1940). Ridley (1912), reported that fresh chillies can be kept in salt water more than a year, without losing colour and pungency.

Yield varies with conditions of growth. In India, rainfed crops yield 250-750 kg/ha; irrigated crops 1500-2500 kg/ha of dried fruits (Purseglove, 1968). In Ethiopia, the average yield is 410 kg/ha (dried). The highest reported yield of dried fruits for Ethiopia is 6400 kg/ha (Zemedu Worku, cited by Alkamper, 1972), which is hardly likely. Other reports claim 3000 kg/ha (Rouanet, cited by Alkamper, 1972). Since 1964, a considerable amount of peppers in Ethiopia is bought by the 'Ethiopian Spice Extraction Share Company, Kalamazoo'. This company extracts the red pigment from the fruits to obtain a natural colouring agent. Since that time, many 'foreign' cultivars have been introduced into Ethiopia. The taste and pungency of the peppers is unimportant for the colour extractors and some of the imported cultivars give higher yields than Ethiopian peppers. For colour extraction, fruits can best be dried in shade, as the sun always bleaches the fruits to some degree. Sun-dried fruits also lose ca 10% more of their weight than shade-dried fruits (Rouanet, cited by Alkamper, 1972).


Culinary uses

There is probably no spice so popular as Capsicum, and no spice has become such an indispensable ingredient of the daily food of so many people of the world. Capsicum spices are known, offered for sale and used under many different names, often differing in origin, pungency or size of the fruit. Most names are not defined precisely and are used in various meanings. Some of their names and their uses, frequently encountered are:

  • Paprika: mild kinds of Capsicum, best known from Spain (Spanish pepper) and Hungary. Sometimes a distinction is made between the Capsicum of Spain ('pimenton' or 'pimiento') and of Hungary (the real paprika). In general, paprikas are sweet thick-fleshed Capsicum cultivars used as a culinary colouring agent, as a flavouring vegetable or as a seasoning in cooking, in cheese, in stuffed olives, in processed meats, in goulash, or eaten raw in salads.
  • Cayenne pepper (red pepper): a powder, usually made from moderately pungent Capsicum fruits. It is best known as a household seasoning and as a common ingredient of curry powder. It certainly has no connexion with Cayenne in French Guiana. In the West Indies, the dried and ground Capsicum is mixed with flour, leavened with yeast, baked hard, powdered and sifted and constitutes the Cayenne pepper there.
  • Nepal pepper: one of the most appetizing kinds of Cayenne pepper because of its agreeable flavour.
  • Chilli (also written chili or chile): general name for (usually pungent) Capsicum peppers.


  • Chilli powder: a mixture of ground pungent Capsicum fruits and several other flavourings, used in meat (chili con carne), stews, beans, sausages, sauces and as a seasoning in the kitchen.
  • Pickled peppers: usually made from small yellow immature fruits of cultivars 'Floral Gem' and Hungarian 'Yellow Wax'.
  • Tabasco pepper sauce: pulp of the ripe fruit of cultivar 'Tabasco', extracted by pressure. The sauce is usually pungent.
  • Chilitepin (bird pepper): small-fruited Capsicum forms.
  • Mandram: a West Indian stomachic, prepared by mashing a few fruits of small peppers and mixing them with sliced cucumbers and shallots to which has been added a little lime juice and Madeira wine (Irish, 1898; Redgrove, 1933; Paul, 1940; Heiser & Smith, 1953; Purseglove, 1968; Rosengarten, 1969).

In Ethiopia, Capsicum spice is the most important spice of the country. Kostlan (1913) called it the 'National Spice' of Ethiopia and he stated 'Without Spanish pepper one can not imagine a food, al most not even an Ethiopian'. This still holds.

The Ethiopians distinguish three kinds of Capsicum spices:

  • (1) 'Karya', the immature green fruits;
  • (2) 'Berbere', the bulk of the red mature pungent fruits; the same name is also used to indicate a pungent sauce;
  • (3) 'Mitmita', the small extremely pungent fruits. On the markets, 'berbere' fruits are usually graded into classes, according to

Photograph 6. Market hall at Dire Dawa with Capsicum fruits in front.


quality. 'Berbere' is the main constituent of most kinds of 'wot'. Three methods of preparation of the 'berbere' fruits are well known:

  • (1) 'Dilih'. The best quality of dried peppers are cleaned (pedicel and calyx removed) and ground. Mixed with fresh garlic, basil, ginger and rue, it is ground again with or without some water. Then the mixture is dried in the sun. Other ground spices like fenugreek, coriander, Ethiopian caraway, black cumin, cloves, cinnamon, korarima and salt and red onions are mixed, slightly roasted, ground to a fine powder, and then added to the other mixture. Sorne water is added until a semi-fluid substance is obtained, called 'dilih'. 'Dilih' can be stored for a very long time, it is the sauce of 'wot'.
  • (2) 'Awazie'. Pedicel, calyx and seeds are removed from the fruits, that are dried, slightly roasted and ground, mixed with garlic and salt, ground again, then left for two days, after which some 'tedj' (fermented honey drink) is added. The resulting fluid, 'awazie' can be stored long and is used to flavour raw meat.
  • (3) 'Aferinge'. Only the seeds and the placentas of the peppers are dried and mixed with garlic, ginger, korarima, Ethiopian caraway, black pepper, turmeric and salt. The mixture is ground, sieved, dried and ground again to a fine powder, 'aferinge'. It is used to flavour raw meat.

'Mitmita' can be prepared in the same way as 'berbere', but its use is limited, as it is very pungent. As a powder (together with other spices), it is used as 'salt' to flavour all kinds of food. A popular dish is 'kitfo', which is raw meat. It is sprayed with 'mitmita' powder and usually slightly roasted.

The mixtures mentioned may vary in the amount of other spices added. Green peppers are usually used immediately in 'wot' or roasted together with meat (Asrat, 1962; Ketema, 1962; Telahun, 1962).

Medicinal uses

Pungent Capsicums are considered powerful stimulants and carminatives. Preparations of it are applied externally as irritants to produce warmth and redness. If they are too concentrated, however, blistering may result (Redgrove, 1933). The number of reported medicinal uses of Capsicum is quite large. It seems to be a panacea. Among uses are the following:

  • Against certain throat inflammations (Irish, 1898; Heiser & Smith, 1953);
  • Against stomach disorders due to alcohol (Heiser & Smith, 1953);
  • Against certain types of diarrhoea (Heiser & Smith, 1953);
  • Against freckles (Irish, 1908);
  • As an antidote to poisons (Dalziel, 1955);
  • Leaves are used as a dressing for wounds and sores (Dalziel, 1955);
  • Leaf-sap is squeezed into the eyes against headache (Dalziel, 1955);
  • As an insecticide (Dalziel, 1955);
  • As a bactericide (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962).

According to Stevenel (cited by Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962), regular intake is beneficial against haemorrhoids, varicose veins, anorexia, liver congestions and vascular conditions.

In Ethiopia, people who eat raw meat believe that Capsicum kills dangerous


micro-organisms in the meat and the stomach. The hot peppers are used also against amoeba infection and intestinal worms. Externally they are used in ointments as an irritant (Amare, 1976). Lemordant (1971) reported that in Ethiopia Capsicum is used against rabies. The liver of the dog that bit is spiced with Capsicum pepper and eaten as antidote.

Chemical composition

Maistre (1964) provided data on the composition of dry Capsicum fruits (Table 4). Capsicum fruits may have a rich vitamin C content. Content of vitamin C in fruits of non pungent cultivars is 0.5-2.8 g/kg expressed as ascorbic acid. The vitamin A content is 2000-200 000 IU/kg for pungent cultivars and 1000-12 000 IU/kg for non pungent cultivars (Purseglove, 1968).

The pungent principle of Capsicum fruits is capsaicin (or capsicin) (C18H27NO3), a volatile phenolic compound, related to vanillin in structure. It is quite stable, persistent and extremely potent. The pure form can be detected by taste at a dilution of one part per million. Capsaicin is found in the placental tissue of the fruits only. Seeds and ovary wall are not pungent (Heiser & Smith, 1953). The fruits contain ca 0.1--0.2% capsaicin (Maistre, 1964; Purseglove, 1968).

The major pigment in Capsicum fruits is the carotenoid capsanthin (C40H58O3) (Purseglove, 1968). The content in paprika is up to 4 g/kg.

The content of carotene in paprika is up to 0.5 g/kg (Redgrove, 1933). According to Agren & Gibson (1968), Ethiopian Capsicum has the composition given in Table 5.

Table 4. Composition of dry Capsicum fruits (from Maistre, 1964).

Whole fruit Pericarp Seed Placenta Content in whole fruit (%) 100 55 36 9 Content in part of fruit (%) Crude protein 15.75 13.05 14.92 11.56 Nitrogen-free extract 42.86 51.52 33.88 26.94 Lipid 10.39 4.62 18.40 10.98 Fibre 15.37 15.00 20.74 29.99 Ash 6.02 7.17 4.41 15.50 Essential oil 1.18 0.95 0.29 Content in ash (g/kg) K 458 Mg 37 Fe 10 p 70 Ca 34 Cl 36 s 26 Na 33 Si 9 Cu 0.25 - 1.35


Table 5. Composition of Ethiopian Capsicum (g/kg) according to Agren & Gibson (1968).

'mitmita' 'mitmita' 'berbere' 'berbere undried dried undried dried Water 653-734 91 661-858 59-153 Nitrogen 2-9 - 3-8 13-29 Prote in 3-36 12-32 52-116 Fat 14-52 14 17-36 50-222 Carbohydrates 189-277 - 126-248 502-720 Fibre 16-19 56-128 197-467 Ash 17-20 63 12-27 49-187 Calcium 0.48-0.49 2.76 0.12-0.36 0.71-2.32 Phosphorus 0.79-1.75 2.95 0.48-1.10 2.29-4.72 Iron 0.028-0.037 0.632 0.023-0.07 0.15-1.18 Thiamine 0.0004 0.0005 0.0006-0.0016 0.0006-0.0068 Riboflavin 0.0022 0.0076 0.0012-0.0076 0.0028-0.017 Niacin 0.013 0.048 0.012-0.041 0.062-0.163 Tryptophan 0.76 Ascorbic acid 0.44 0.45 0.18-1.88 0.08-0.27 B-carotene eq. 0.506 0-0.0412 0.3798 'Rubbish' (in samples) 210 40 220-620 10-190 'berbere' spice mixture 41-94 18-31 44-124 114-189 497-589 194-267 61-263 1.75-2.82 2.81-4.76 0.094-0.962 0.085-0.005 0.0015-0.0084 0.012-0.092 0.12-0.81 0.8