Terms like cultivar, variety, and hybrid are common terms when describing chili pepper plants. And they are also used incorrectly much of the time. They are often used interchangeably, even though the words have quite different definitions. Let’s compare the three to get a better understanding of the scientific classifications of chili peppers.
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What is a variety?
Peppers are a diverse group of plants that belong to the genus Capsicum, which includes both sweet and hot varieties. A variety, in scientific terms, is a subcategory of a species that is distinguished by certain physical characteristics, such as the shape, size, or color of the fruit, as well as the plant’s growth habit or flavor. Importantly, varieties happen naturally.
Pepper varieties are identified based on their genetic makeup and can be crossbred to produce new varieties. The different varieties of peppers can vary widely in their heat levels, flavor profiles, and culinary uses, making them a versatile and popular ingredient in many cuisines around the world.
There are many different varieties of peppers, each with their own unique characteristics. Some popular sweet pepper varieties include the bell pepper, which comes in a variety of colors including red, yellow, and green, and the Carmen pepper, which has a distinctive horn-shaped appearance.
Hot pepper varieties include the jalapeño, which is commonly used in Mexican cuisine, the Thai bird’s eye chili, which is known for its intense heat, and the Carolina Reaper, which is currently considered the hottest pepper in the world. Other varieties include the poblano, the serrano, the habanero, and the cayenne pepper, each of which has its own distinct flavor and heat level.
–> Learn More: Our Hot Pepper List – Discover Over 150 Varieties Of Chilies
What is a hybrid?
A hybrid is a cross of two varieties. With a hybrid, you get characteristics from each parent plant. In most cases, the parent plants will belong to the same genus. Chili peppers can be hybridized by crossing two self-pollinating varieties, after which the seeds are collected.
The resulting hybrid chili peppers will typically be hardier and more productive than either of the parent plants, so they will have characteristics such as a higher yield or the ability to withstand harsh conditions. A hybrid variety can occur in nature without human intervention or it can be man-made. If it is deliberately man-made, it is also a cultivar.
Hybrid peppers often have improved disease resistance, higher yields, and better taste. Farmers and gardeners can benefit from growing hybrid peppers, as they are often more efficient and cost-effective to cultivate than other types of peppers. Additionally, hybrid peppers can offer unique flavors and appearances that are not found in traditional pepper varieties.
What is a cultivar?
A cultivar is a cultivated variety, the word is literally a portmanteau of cultivated and variety. This type of plant is cultivated by selecting a specimen that has a desirable characteristic. Unlike varieties, which are a natural grouping within a species, cultivars are artificial and occur as a product of human intervention.
There are many different types of cultivars. In respect to hot peppers, an example of desirable characteristics might be heat or size. A grower might select for either or both characteristics and others, like resistance to disease. A cultivar can consist of a naturally occurring variety or a hybrid.
Among the benefits of a cultivar is the fact that the farmer or gardener is able to predict what they are getting. There is no risk of the variation that you might get in the natural species. Note that to get this predictability, the gardener will have to grow plants vegetatively. Vegetative propagation refers to cultivation from cuttings as opposed to from seeds.