Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
Pepper Basics
History and Name
Peppers are indigenous to South and Central America. They were first brought to
Europe in 1493 by Columbus following his second trip to the New World, and spread
throughout the world afterwards where they are now one of the most commonly grown do-
mestic vegetables. Due to their hot, spicy taste similar to the peppercorn, a highly prized
spice at the time, they were given the name pepper. This name is somewhat misleading, in
that the pepper and peppercorn are two totally diverse plants. The origin of the word chile
is xilli , from the Mexican Nahuatl language. Throughout the world many different words
are used for peppers. In the US we use bell peppers or sweet peppers, whereas in Ireland
and Britain they are known simply as peppers, whereas Australians, New Zealanders and
Indians call them capsicums, a name originating from its scientific name, Capsicum an-
nuum .
Are peppers fruits or vegetables? Chances are most people will say the latter!
Botanically, as they contain seeds, peppers are classified as fruits, however from a culinary
context they are generally regarded as vegetables. Try asking that question the next time
you want to win a bet!
Life Cycle
Chile peppers thrive in warm, sunny sheltered locations. They are perennials, mean-
ing that they grow for a number of years. However in most growing locations outside of
their indigenous environment, they are grown as annuals, whereby frost kills the plant after
one year. This can be avoided by bringing plants indoors during the winter period, however
more on this later. Should they survive the winter, they continue to grow and bloom for 2-3
years. Typically they will be outgrown by a daughter plant which will have grown from the
seeds of a fallen pepper.
Pepper seeds will germinate in moist warm soil (at least 70 o F/21 o C), cooler or drier
soils can prevent germination. In warm sunny conditions, the plant will grow with flowers
appearing at stem branch tips. These star-, or bell-shaped flowers (yellow or white) may
appear in clusters of two or three, but more typically as single flowers. These flowers will
continue to bloom in warm temperatures. These flowers are pollinated (naturally by insects
or by hand). Following this the flowers will begin to turn brown and start to shrivel, with a
tiny green ball left behind. The fruits emerge from this small ball and depending on pepper/
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