Late summer is traditional harvest time for chiles, those waxy Latin American fruits (that's right, fruits!) that deliver a veritable piñata of nutrients, including vitamins A and C. All chiles also contain capsaicin — a spicy compound that increases circulation, mutes nerve sensitivity, and may help with weight loss — but only some are fiery.


Watch out for this lantern-shaped chile: It's the hottest in Central America and Mexico. Try it dried, or mix a tiny amount of the brilliantly colored pepper into chutneys or marinades. Be careful when handling.
Extremely hot


Tinged with purple, this big green pepper is one of Mexico's most popular delicacies. Usually served roasted, this chile is especially tasty in rellenos and moles. Called ancho when dried.
Medium hot


This long, slender lime-green pepper, grown primarily in Southern California, has a tough skin. Peel it and use fresh, or roast it and add a smoky touch to green chili or tomatillo salsa.
Mild hot


This squat green native of Jalapa, Mexico, is the easiest chile to find year-round in the United States. Chop into corn-bread batter, or roast and fill with cream cheese. Called chipotle when smoked.
Medium hot