The pepper is small and finger-long, slender, and thin-walled. Although it turns from green to red upon ripening, it is usually harvested while green. The name refers to the fact that the tip of the chili pepper (唐辛子 tōgarashi?) looks like the head of a lion (獅子 shishi?), and in Japanese it is often abbreviated as shishitō.
About one out of every ten peppers is spicy. The occurrence of pungent fruit is induced by such factors as illumination, and other stress may predispose the peppers to turn spicy.