I have a plant of ornamental chilies, which most probably they are little elf chilies. I would like to know if they are safe to eat and/or use them in cooking?


  • 1
    They are usually very hot, but edible
    – J. Musser
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 22:34
  • 4
    There is only one tiny caveat: If you bought the plant labeled explicitly as ornamental, it may have been treated with chemicals not approved for food.
    – Stephie
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 8:30
  • @Stephie Not a tiny caveat, its a major one!
    – Bamboo
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 12:29
  • Gosh, this looks terribly like Thai Chili! A smallish rounded perennial plant with lots of small chili fruits. LUCKY YOU! Of course until you've got a VERIFIED id...I'd wait. You could collect the red chili and dry them. Please do this as if this is Thai Chili you've got to save these! Please send more information, what was on the tag, a larger photo with scale indicator...I am 90% sure but not enough to rely upon!!
    – stormy
    Commented Oct 31, 2015 at 1:35
  • In my opinion they are habanner chilli, but I'm not 100% sure Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 4:58

3 Answers 3


Ornamental chile peppers are perfectly safe to eat, including Little Elf.

I've only grown one kind of ornamental pepper, so far: Chinese 5 Color. I understand Chinese 5 Color is supposed to taste better than most ornamental peppers do. Usually, ornamental peppers are not said to have much taste appeal. Chinese 5 Color tastes pretty good when it's purple (the first phase), but when fully ripe it's unpleasant to my taste. It's quite hot either way, but the heat seems to be a much more pleasant kind of heat while purple.

So, in essence, some ornamental peppers may not be palatable, but they shouldn't poison you or anything either way.

So, I recommend trying these at each color phase. It's possible you might like yellow more than red, or vice versa.

I do caution you, however, to make sure they actually are peppers. If they're not peppers (but rather a related nightshade species), they might be toxic to eat.

  • 1
    Great answer! Just one more point that I would emphasize from experience: Small ornamental peppers are usually a lot hotter than usual peppers. Which you might like or dislike... Also, they are often pretty easy to dry since the pulp (hopefully the right word) tends to be rather thin.
    – anderas
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 10:55
  • 2
    Yes I've known them dry 'on the vine' - unlike regular peppers which will rot first, here in North Texas. when I've tried them they haven't been that hot, but of course it will vary by variety.
    – winwaed
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 12:02

I wouldn't use them - any plant sold as 'ornamental' may have been produced by the growers using systemic pesticide/fungicide treatments not suitable for edible foods, and traces of which will be within the tissues of the plant and the fruits - the use of the term 'ornamental' means the growers are not restricted to non systemic, intended for human consumption, treatments during the growing process.

  • This depends on whether the whole plant was bought, or seeds of a variety labeled as ornamental peppers. The latter would be safe, but you are right about the first option.
    – anderas
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 12:47

Go ahead and enjoy.. but please read my hints.

There is no such thing as ornamental chillies.:) Wash them off, before eating if you got doubts about the treatment. Rest assured, I got them outside and the previous owner named them ornamental!! They just got a higher voltage than your ordinary jalapeno. Ours are volcanic strength and I recommend that you remove the seeds before using. I also STRONGLY recommend that you wash your hands immediately, under NO circumstances rub you eyes or delicate parts, you can even feel it rubbing your nose!! One per two people is usually sufficient, only if you invite Malaysian or Thai friends use more.

The only Chilies I have ever eaten with a higher voltage were growing wild in Northern Malaysia, those were about half the size of the "ornamental" ones. I would rate those as atomic grade.

  • Ornamental just means people plant them for their looks. It sounds like maybe you thought it was a variety. Most ornamental peppers are very hot, but there are exceptions (e.g. Medusa peppers). Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 5:31
  • Did you know that you can use human hair to absorve the chillies juices when you accidentaly touch your eyes? I have done this before and works Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 5:02

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