5 Things You Didn’t Know About Chili Peppers

Martin SmazenkoHot PeppersLeave a Comment

Chili Peppers

You love cooking with our delicious sauces, even those made with the hottest peppers, but how much do you know about this spicy fruit? (That’s right, chili peppers are a fruit.)

Impress your friends and family at your next barbecue by busting out one of these 5 facts about peppers (and with your grilling skills, of course).

  1. Chilis have some strange family connections. They’re fruits of plants in the genus Capsicum, which is part of the family Solanaceae — better known as the nightshade family. Don’t worry, though. Chilis are distant relatives to belladonna and nightshade, but they’re usually no more dangerous than other members of the family, the tomato and the potato.
  2. Chili peppers and pepper aren’t related. Black pepper, white pepper, and related varieties come from the dried fruit — called peppercorn — of plants in the family Piperaceae. So how did they both come to be called pepper? You can thank the Spanish. When they arrived in the New World and tasted their first chili peppers, the flavor reminded them of the spice they imported from Asia. They called both pimiento, which the English translated to pepper.Chili Peppers
  3. Chili peppers are native to the Americas. While some of the world’s hottest chilis have been cultivated in places like India and Bangladesh, all chili peppers originally trace back to the Americas, mainly Central and South America. They were introduced to the rest of the world during the Columbian Exchange, when European colonists brought cultivars of American plants to the rest of the world and vice versa. Portuguese explorers are believed to have introduced chili peppers to Asia in the 16th century.
  4. Capsaicin doesn’t affect birds. Capsaicin is what makes chili peppers so painfully, deliciously spicy — and what allows them to be effectively weaponized into pepper spray. But it seems to only really affect mammals, including humans. Birds don’t respond to capsaicin or related chemicals, which is a big part of how chili pepper plants spread. Birds would eat them in one location and pass the seeds elsewhere, allowing a new plants to grow.
  5. The world’s hottest chili is from South Carolina. Developed by Ed Currie, the Carolina Reaper rates an average of 1,569,300 Scoville Heat Units, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

 

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