Saturday, August 08, 2020

Capsicum: From the new world to Europe

Capsicum originated in Mexico, Central America, and South America. This genus of capsicum is native to tropical and subtropical America in a wide region comprising Mexico and northern Central America, the Caribbean, the lowland Bolivia, the northern lowland Amazonia, and the mid-elevation southern Andes, where archaeological evidence suggests use of this spice crop since 6000 BC.

Native Americans had grown chili plants between 5200 and 3400 BC. This places chilies among the oldest cultivated crops of the Americas. The genus Capsicum is one of the first plants being cultivated in the New World with beans.

Capsicum annuum and Capsicum frutescens were widely distributed from the New World to other continents via Spanish and Portuguese traders while the other species are little distributed outside South America.

In the Caribbean region where Christopher Columbus landed, the pods of the plant were called "ají," sometimes spelled "axí" or "agí" or "ajé" by early Spaniards. The crop was firstly introduced in Europe by Christopher Columbus during his travels after the discovery of America in the fifteenth century and later spread to Africa and Asia.

Early imported varieties belong to C. chinense which most probably were the most consumed during that time.

It spread to countries in Africa and Asia by way of the trade routes operating at that time. The fruit was traded initially as black pepper (Piper nigrum L.), a species with its own unique form of pungency but otherwise dissimilar in appearance and taxonomically unrelated to Capsicum. Peppers were named by Christopher Columbus and Spanish explorers who were searching for peppercorn plants to produce black pepper. Columbus took samples of a wide variety of peppers back to Europe where they became quite popular. For this reason, cultivated Capsicum acquired the common name ‘‘pepper.’’
Capsicum: From the new world to Europe