While there are hundreds of types of chili peppers available today, this wasn’t always the case.
Before plant breeders developed the Habanero and Carolina Reaper, there were native chili peppers hanging out in the wild. People believe that the original spicy peppers came from low-lying areas of Brazil before they were spread to other areas by birds. Fun fact: birds don’t feel chili peppers’ heat, so they don’t have any problems eating them.
Or pooping out their seeds.
Historians don’t agree on how the chilis made it to the area of present-day New Mexico. Some people think they traveled there via trade between indigenous peoples, and others believe European explorers and colonizers brought them to New Mexico. One thing they know for sure is that European explorers brought chili peppers back to Europe as well as to India. From India, these spicy fruits made their way to various parts of present-day Africa and Asia. And that’s how that became staples of cuisines throughout the world.
There are over 25 species of wild chili peppers, but only five of these are domesticated species. Some of the most common are Capsicum annuum (jalapeños and cayenne's) and Capsicum chinense (habaneros and scotch bonnet). Of course, not all of these species existed from the beginning. Plant breeders all over the world have crossed and selected specific fruits to come up with the new varieties we know and love.