The cayenne pepper is a type of Capsicum annuum. It is usually a moderately hot chili pepper used to flavor dishes. Cayenne peppers are a group of tapering, 10 to 25 cm long, generally skinny, mostly red colored peppers, often with a curved tip and somewhat rippled skin, which hang from the bush as opposed to growing upright. Most varieties are generally rated at 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units.
The fruits are generally dried and ground to make the powdered spice of the same name, although cayenne powder may be a blend of different types of peppers, quite often not containing cayenne peppers, and may or may not contain the seeds.
Cayenne is used in cooking spicy dishes either as a powder or in its whole form. It is also used as an herbal supplement.
The word 'cayenne' is thought to be a corruption of the word quiínia (also sometimes spelled kyynha or kynnha) of the Old Tupi language once spoken in Brazil, which means pepper (thus 'cayenne pepper' means 'pepper pepper'). It is probable that the place Cayenne in French Guiana was named after the peppers, not vice versa, although it is commonly claimed that the pepper was named after the city. Culpeper, for example, uses the word 'cayenne pepper' in 1652, and the city was only renamed as such in 1777. It also is possibly named for the Cayenne River.
Nicholas Culpeper in his Complete Herbal, 1653, mentions cayenne pepper as a synonym for what he calls "pepper (guinea)", although he refers to Capsicum peppers in general in his entry.
The cayenne pepper is a type of Capsicum annuum, as are bell peppers, jalapeños, paprika, and many others. The genus Capsicum is in the nightshade family, (Solanaceae). Cayenne peppers are often said to belong to the frutescens variety, but frutescens peppers are now defined as peppers which have fruit which grow upright on the bush (such as tabasco peppers), thus what is known in English as cayenne peppers are by definition not frutescens.
In the 19th century, modern cayenne peppers were classified as C. longum, this name was later synonymised with C. frutescens. Cayenne powder, however, has generally been made from the bird's eye peppers, in the 19th century classified as C. minimum.
Cayenne peppers are long, tapering, 10 to 25 cm long, generally skinny, mostly red colored peppers, often with a curved tip and somewhat rippled skin, which hang from the bush as opposed to growing upright. There are many specific cultivars, such as 'Cow-horn', 'Cayenne Sweet', 'Cayenne Buist's Yellow', 'Golden Cayenne', 'Cayenne Carolina', 'Cayenne Indonesian', 'Joe's Long', 'Cayenne Large Red Thick', 'Cayenne Long Thick Red', 'Ring of Fire', 'Cayenne Passion', 'Cayenne Thomas Jefferson', 'Cayenne Iberian', 'Cayenne Turkish', 'Egyptian Cayenne', 'Cayenne Violet' or 'Numex Las Cruces Cayenne'. Although most modern cayenne peppers are colored red; yellow and purple varieties exist, and in the 19th century yellow varieties were common. Most types are moderately hot, although a number of mild variants exist. Most varieties are generally rated at 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units, although some are rated at 20,000 or less.
Most cultivated varieties of cayenne, Capsicum annuum, can be grown in a variety of locations including tropical and temperate zones and need around 100 days to mature. Peppers prefer warm, moist, nutrient-rich soil in a warm climate. The plants grow to about 0.5–1 m (20–39 in) in height and should be spaced 1 m (3 ft) apart. In gardens, the plants may be planted as close as 30 cm (1 ft) apart in a raised bed, or simply grown in large pots. This may reduce the yield of an individual plant, but will increase yields per unit area.
Chilis are mostly perennial in subtropical and tropical regions; however, they are usually grown as annuals in temperate climates. They can be overwintered if protected from frost, and require some pruning.
Cayenne powder may be a blend of different types of peppers. Cayenne powder is distinguished from 'chili powder' as it is made from cayenne peppers only, whereas chili powder is generally a spice mixture. It is employed variously in its fresh form, or as dried powder used on seafood, all types of egg dishes (devilled eggs, omelettes, soufflés), meats and stews, casseroles, cheese dishes, hot sauces, and curries.
Cayenne pepper, by weight, is high in vitamin A. It also contains vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, and manganese. However, given the very small amount of cayenne pepper typically consumed in a serving, it makes a negligible contribution to overall dietary intake of these nutrients.