Plant Name: Solanaceae Plant Family: Solanaceae Scientific Name: Capsicum annuum (bell pepper and some chilis) C. frutescens (chili peppers)
The garden pepper (Capsicum frutescens) received its common name, pepper, because of its spicy flavor. Christopher Columbus was interested in the spice trade when he set forth to find a short route to the East Indies. The native tribes he discovered upon landing used fiery forms of Capsicum. Columbus mistook it for another form of Piper nigrum, the black pepper used as table pepper.
As early as 1493 Peter Martyr wrote that Columbus brought home with him "pepper more pungent than that from the Caucasus (the far East)." Peppers were among the first vegetables native to the Americas that the Europeans took an interest in. They ignored many others that were to become popular later, but were so interested in peppers that by the beginning of the 1600s they had discovered nearly every form known today - all under cultivation by native tribes. They became a common vegetable in Europe after Columbus' expeditions and Portuguese travelers took them to Asia where they also became commonly used.
American colonists used peppers in their cooking but no one is certain whether they came back to the colonies from England or the Caribbean.
Ancient Native Americans had used peppers for thousands of years. Fragments of various peppers believed to be more than 2,000 years old were found in Peruvian ruins. The embroidery on an Indian garment from the first century A.D. unearthed near the coast of Peru is illustrated with pepper fruits. The Olmecs, Toltecs, and Aztecs cultivated and used peppers extensively.
Peppers are a almost a staple in Mexico and the American Southwest. They are available in fresh, green and ripe red forms, as well as dried, and are often purchased in bulk quantities.
Hotter varieties are referred to as chilis in the U.S. In Spain, the word pimenta or pimiento refers to mild peppers, but in the U.S. it refers to a specific variety.
The Hungarians cultivated a type known as paprika which is used to make Tabasco sauce.
In most of the United States, the sweet pepper is the most commonly grown. The word "pepper" generally refers to sweet, or bell peppers.
Peppers are very high in vitamin C. They contain the highest level of Vitamin C content is just before they begin to turn red.