Pep­pery foods have been a part of the human diet for more than 8,000 years.

Long before the ancient Greeks and Romans gave mon­e­tary value to pep­per­corns, South Amer­i­can Indi­ans were eat­ing fiery hot wild chili pep­pers.

Chilies were eaten in Mex­ico, Brazil and Peru 6,000 years B.C. and were one of the first domes­ti­cated plants in the New World.

The love affair with chili pep­pers con­tin­ues. Most of us asso­ciate chili pep­pers with vary­ing degrees of heat. Super­hot chili pep­pers go beyond habanero pep­per heat and sur­pass 350,000 Scov­ille Heat Units.

Any num­ber of vari­eties of these super­hots have sur­passed two mil­lion Scov­ille Heat Units. Treat these pep­pers with the utmost respect when han­dling or cook­ing with them.

Heat aside, there are any num­ber of sweet and mild pep­pers that offer a high degree of dis­tinc­tive fla­vor pro­files with­out scorch­ing the palette.

Pep­per plants are of the genus Cap­sicum and are rel­a­tives of the potato, tomato, egg­plant and even tobacco — all in the night­shade fam­ily.

Grow­ing pep­pers can be chal­leng­ing as they require a good deal of heat and sun to set and ripen. Pep­per plants will wait out the sea­son until they get just the right con­di­tions to get grow­ing. Hot August days and nights seem to make pep­per plants flour­ish.

Pep­per plants all look pretty much alike, some taller and bushier than oth­ers.

That’s where the resem­blance ends. Sweet pep­pers can be boxy, stocky, long and thin or round, in shades of green, red, yel­low, orange and pur­ple.

Names like Flamingo, Padron, Tan­ger­ine Dream or Sweet Apple invite cooks to explore sal­sas, sauces, soups or use them to stuff, roast, pickle and dry.

When look­ing for a milder chile, a good ref­er­ence is to select ones that have broad shoul­ders and blunt tips. For hot­ter chile pep­pers, select ones with pointed tips and nar­row shoul­ders. This is impor­tant because as a sin­gle plant can yield pep­pers with vary­ing degrees of piquancy.

Spicy, smoky and sweet, find­ing the “Goldilocks” of pep­pers is based on indi­vid­ual culi­nary tastes and tol­er­ance for heat. Both fac­tors are heav­ily influ­enced by food cul­ture and are highly sub­jec­tive.

Light an inner fire through the broad spec­trum of local chili pep­pers read­ily avail­able in August. The per­fect pep­pery match is out there.