Chillies and capsicums (‘peppers’ in the USA) belong to the Solanaceae family, along with tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes.
While the most common types of chillies belong to the Capsicum frutescens genera, ‘Manzana’ chillies (Capsicum pubescens) are an altogether different beast, having purple (not white) flowers and black (not cream) wrinkled seeds. Manzana chilli leaves are covered with a light fuzz, as its Latin name indicates (Reference: Seed Savers Handbook).
Of all the chillies one can grow on the Adelaide Plains – and I’ve grown over a dozen different varieties – Manzana chillies have become my favourite. As a perennial, one bush is all one generally needs if you’re an Aussie, and this one bush will provide chillies pretty much all year round, especially in spring when other annual chillies are still just seedlings. Manzana chillies are hot but not deadly (3 out of 5), and the bushes survive the heat and poor watering with ease. This single bush (below) has been under-watered to the point of neglect, but keeps on hanging in there year after year. It needs staking and regular pruning to keep it looking respectable.
Saving chilli seed is a dangerous business best carried out in a ventilated fire-proof bunker in full protective clothing, face mask and breathing apparatus! Don’t touch your face and eyes while saving chilli seed, as the burning sensation that follows is right up there with the pain more often associated with knee capping and having your finger-nails pulled out with pliers. Wear rubber gloves, at least. I should.
To save the seed, chop up the chillies and place them with water in a blender, where they are minced up at the slowest speed, allowing the seed to settle to the bottom (with a bit of help). Sieve the debris if necessary, then pour the seeds out onto an absorbent paper towel and let dry in the shade before storing.