The genus ‘Capsicum’ consists of different types of chile pepper plants. ‘Chile pepper’ is also known as ‘chili pepper’ or ‘chilli pepper.’ Chile peppers belong to the genus Capsicum and family Solanaceae. Chile peppers are one of the most valuable crops cultivated across the globe. There are about 30 species of plants in the genus ‘Capsicum’; however only 5 species are domesticated or cultivated on a large scale. Rest of the species are found in the wild. Chile peppers are believed to be originated in the Americas.
Five cultivated/domesticated species of chile peppers are Capsicum chinense, Capsicum pubescens, Capsicum annuum, Capsicum baccatum, and Capsicum frutescens. Among these, Capsicum annuum is the most cultivated chile pepper species. Most of the chile pepper varieties that are available in the market belong to the group Capsicum annuum.
There are several wild species of chile pepper plants that can be exploited for commercial cultivation. Capsicum exile is one of these wild chile peppers. Most of the wild species of capsicums are of Brazilian origin. Major among them are Capsicum caatingae, Capsicum recurvatum, Capsicum mirabile, Capsicum dusenii, Capsicum longidentatum, Capsicum leptopodum, Capsicum buforum, and Capsicum campylopodium.
Capsicum dimorphum, Capsicum geminifolium and Capsicum hookerianum are wild capsicum species native to the region comprising of Colombia and Ecuador. Capsicum coccineum and Capsicum minutiflorum are wild capsicum species native to Bolivia and surrounding regions. Capsicum scolnikianum and Capsicum tovarii are wild capsicum species native to Peru.
Other wild species of capsicums include Capsicum cardenasii, Capsicum chacoense, Capsicum cornutum, Capsicum exile, Capsicum eximium, Capsicum galapagoense, Capsicum lanceolatum, Capsicum parvifolium, Capsicum praetermissum, Capsicum rhomboideum, Capsicum schottianum, and Capsicum villosum.
Capsicum exile: It is also known as “the Cobincho Pepper”. Capsicum exile is another wild species of Capsicum genus. It is a native to Bolivia. It is considered as a rare species of chile pepper. It is believed to be a variant of Capsicum chacoense, another wild species of Capsicum.
Plant Description: It is an open pollinated wild species of capsicum. Plants are perennial and look like small shrubs with green, woody stems. They can grow up to a height of 1.5 meter. Leaves are small, dark green and smooth. Flowers are small, and white. Fruits are blunted and oval shaped berries, and grow to 1-2 cm long. Ripe fruits are fleshy, orange-red colored and are very hot (15,000 SHU). Fruits are edible and can be used like other hot peppers.
Growing Practices: Like other chile pepper plants, C. exile prefers full sun and tropical, warm humid climate for its growth. The plant is not frost-hardy. It prefers well-drained, rich, fertile, sandy loam soils. Propagation is by seeds though seeds are very difficult to germinate; it may take 2-4 months for seeds to germinate. Seedlings may be raised indoors and may be transplanted outdoors during spring season. The fruits are ready for harvest in 120 days of sowing seeds.
Seed Germination Process: Seeds can be dipped in a dilute hydrogen peroxide solution (1 tsp hydrogen peroxide per cup water) for one minute to disinfect seeds prior to sowing. Sow seeds indoors in small containers approximately 1 cm deep in moist soil. Soil should well-drained, moderately moist and pathogen-free. Soil temperature must be kept at 75-900F throughout the germination period. Low soil temperature may delay germination. So in order to avoid this problem, a seed starting heat mat may be used. There should be proper air circulation for containers. Seeds start germinating within 2-3 months.
Transplanting Process: Seedlings start appearing within 2-3 months of sowing seeds. Keep the seedlings in the containers itself until they develop 2-3 pairs of leaves. After that, transplant them into larger containers. Harden the seedlings for a few weeks before planting them in outdoors. Hardening off seedlings can be done by exposing them to only filtered sunlight for up to 1-2 weeks. While planting outdoors, follow proper spacing; the recommended spacing is plant to plant is 1 meter and row to row is 3 meters.
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