Origin of Capsicum Peppers

Origin of Capsicum Peppers


Capsicum is a genus of plants from the Solanaceae family, cultivated for thousands of years by the people of the tropical Americas.

The term chilli or chile is widely used and it refers exclusively to the smaller, hot types of capsicum fruits. Its orthography is common in Spanish although the name varies depending on the location. For example, in South America it is better known as ají, locoto or rocoto, meanwhile in USA it is called bell pepper and in Canada and the United Kingdon only like pepper. 

The spelling of this word is very important to make the difference between the capsicum fruit “chili” and the country Chile which is named after the Quechua chin ("cold"), tchili ("snow"), or chilli ("where the land ends").

There is also some disagreement about whether it is proper to use the word "pepper" when discussing chili peppers because "pepper" originally referred to the genus Piper, not capsicum. Despite this dispute, a sense of pepper referring to capsicum is supported by English dictionaries.

Even though chilis are considered as a vegetable, they are transformed in hot sauces or chili pepper powder to be used in culinary dishes as spice.

Since at least 7500 years BC, chili peppers were domesticated by prehistoric people starting in the south with Peru to Mexico in the north of the Americas. Some of these countries used capsicum fruits with medical purposes.

In most European countries and in the continental United States of America, only Jalapeño pepper is produced but habanero chiles do not grow well because of the climate. Only in San Diego or Florida, they survive from one growing season to the next.

Around 6000 years ago, archaeological activities in south western Ecuador found evidences of capsicum products crops which prove they have been one of the first cultivated products in human diet.

It was only after Columbus’ time when chilis were known and cultivated around the globe. He was one of the first Europeans to find these capsicum fruits. Because of their similarity in taste to the Old World peppers of the Piper genus, he decided to give the same name in order to associate them with the known Asian spice.

In 1493, Diego Alvarez Chanca, a physician on Columbus' second voyage, brought the first capsicum peppers to Spain and analyze its medical effects. Since this moment, it began commerce between Mexico, as a Spanish colony, with Asia. Hot peppers spread rapidly into the Philippines, India, China, Korea and Japan where they were incorporated into local dishes.

Useful Resources for SpiceSolution

Chipotle Capsicum Habanero Peppers
Chili or Chile Pepper Powder Habanero Dried Peppers Pickled Habanero Peppers
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