Skip to comments.Birthplace of the domesticated chili pepper identified in Mexico
Posted on 04/18/2014 9:49:58 AM PDT by Red Badger
Central-east Mexico gave birth to the domesticated chili peppernow the world's most widely grown spice cropreports an international team of researchers, led by a plant scientist at the University of California, Davis.
Results from the four-pronged investigationbased on linguistic and ecological evidence as well as the more traditional archaeological and genetic datasuggest a regional, rather than a geographically specific, birthplace for the domesticated chili pepper. That region, extending from southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca to southeastern Veracruz, is further south than was previously thought, the researchers found.
The region also is different from areas of origin that have been suggested for common bean and corn, which were presumably domesticated in Western Mexico.
The study findings will be published online April 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as part of a series of research papers on plant and animal domestication.
Crop domestication, the process of selectively breeding a wild plant or animal species, is of increasing interest to scientists.
"Identifying the origin of the chili pepper is not just an academic exercise," said UC Davis plant scientist Paul Gepts, the study's senior author. "By tracing back the ancestry of any domesticated plant, we can better understand the genetic evolution of that species and the origin of agriculturea major step in human evolution in different regions of the world," he said.
"This information, in turn, better equips us to develop sound genetic conservation programs and increases the efficiency of breeding programs, which will be critically important as we work to deal with climate change and provide food for a rapidly increasing global population," Gepts added.
Study co-author Gary P. Nabhan, an ethnobiologist and agroecologist at the University of Arizona's Southwest Center noted: "This is the first research ever to integrate multiple lines of evidence in attempts to pinpoint where, when, under what ecological conditions, and by whom a major global spice plant was domesticated.
"In fact, this may be the only crop-origins research to have ever predicted the probable first cultivators of one of the world's most important food crops," Nabhan said.
To determine crop origins, scientists have traditionally studied the plants' genetic makeup in geographic areas where they have observed high diversity among the crop's wild ancestors. More recently, they have also examined archaeological remains of plants, including pollen, starch grains and even mineralized plant secretions.
For this chili pepper study, the researchers used these two traditional approaches but also considered historical languages, looking for the earliest linguistic evidence that a cultivated chili pepper existed.
They also developed a model for the distribution of related plant species, to predict the areas most environmentally suitable for the chili pepper and its wild ancestors.
The genetic evidence seemed to point more to northeastern Mexico as the chili pepper's area of domestication; however there was collectively more evidence from all four lines of study supporting the central-east region as the area of origin.
Now here is a hot topic.
Interesting article. It is amusing to note that extremely tenuous tie in they make to climate change. Of course that is because anything which talks AGW gets to open the federal spigot.
On further research, I stand corrected. The chinese plant the hell out of these; I had supposed that Chinese use of chili peppers was a “Chinese-American” thing, like General Tso chicken.
:: Study co-author Gary P. Nabhan, an ethnobiologist and agroecologist ::
Why, oh why, for the love of gaia, did I get a degree in “chemistry”?
I could have specialized in agro-bio-theo-micro-nuclear-physical-chemistry! Woe is me.
The chili pepper? That narrows it down./ extreme sarcasm
LOL. I ‘narrowed down’ my pepper plantings this year. I’ve only got ~45 varieties this go around.
I am growing one of the tepin varieties from native seeds though. And something called Zia Pueblo.
How many varieties at your house this year?
Thailand, Ireland, and Italy, what the heck did those people eat before hot peppers, potatoes and tomatoes.
Is the black pepper from India a capsicum or a piper nigra?
India grows a lot of peppers as well.
Life was tougher back in those days. People got an arm chopped off and they treated it as a mere flesh wound (or so I saw in a British Documentary about the Black Knight, and King Arthur, and some dangerous bunny rabbit...). Half the population would get wiped out by the Plague and it would be treated with a shoulder shrug.
I’m just glad that spell check worked on potatoes and tomatoes.
Surprised to see the number of health benefits tied to this pepper...wife will be ‘thrilled’.
“I’m guessing this refers only to Capsicum annuum, (bell, jalapeno, chilli and related peppers)”
Since the title says “chili” I would guess that also ...
“The chinese plant the hell out of these; I had supposed that Chinese use of chili peppers was a Chinese-American thing,”
When I had Dish, I used to watch the Chinese channels a lot. There was a game show based upon which contestant could eat the hottest food. It was hilarious! One time the had “cookies” that were made of flour of ground chilies! That’s all that was in them! Contestants would shed articles of clothing in attempts to cool down.
Are you growing piper nigra here in CONUS?
Not really...New England.
In a greenhouse? Because I would love to grow them.
Ok, where’d you get the piper nigra seeds? Have they sprouted yet, I hear they’re devlishly difficult to germinate.
I started them early...very nice plants (so far). Plenty of light in an area with radiant heat; feeding them bat guano. Lost the greenhouse when I moved recently. Obtained the seed in a swap (I told you that you need to get involved in those, BA.) Planted eight seeds, all eight germinated.
Hmm. I might try some bought this summer. It will be this fall’s seed swap before I can get any that way.
Cool. I may have to try that next year. Save seed. ;)
I’ve got tobacco seed and really good cantaloupe seed to swap for a few.
Oops...my bad. I didn’t see the other tray...planted FIFTEEN seed, all germinated and are doing quite well. They will get their first taste of outdoor sunshine tomorrow...just a taste.
I’m baby sitting grand kids and have no idea what my garden is doing right now. Probably playing loud music and having a party.
Told the grand kids that if this gig rolls into tomorrow, we were going to relocate the AO. I need to be near my garden this time of year.
I have cats that LOVE pepper plants...it’s quite the juggling act to keep them all intact. I have become tuned in to the sound of a cat’s jaws opening...
Speaking of seeds; the seed bill I’ve mentioned before passed the NH Senate yesterday.
I save seed from EVERYTHING...drives my wife nuts.
My catz have been known to nosh on pepper plants. I’ve moved the shelves so they can’t get to them.
"Chili peppers have been a part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BC. There is archaeological evidence at sites located in southwestern Ecuador that chili peppers were domesticated more than 6000 years ago, and is one of the first cultivated crops in the Americas that is self-pollinating. "
You’ll have to send me your website addy when you get one set up. too bad it’ll be YEARS before your piper nigra plants actually make seeds...
This impresses me as an extremely difficult task.
If asked about the origins of cultivated peppers, my first inclination would be South Asia or the Pacific islands. The second guess would be South America.
To start with, they probably assume that domesticated peppers first made their appearance with the Clovis culture, about 13,000 years ago. But a lot of the technologies used then, and later Indian tribes, may have arrived there already developed.
Either from the Pacific islands or South America, such as the Pedra Furada sites in Brazil. Much, much older than Clovis.
I keep my tomato and pepper seedlings in the garage on cold nights. I had a mouse attack last year that wiped out a whole tray. Liberal applications of ‘mousicide’ (traps) stopped that. I have only just started stuff in the past week though so I will probably just keep them outside except on the coldest nights.
The mice even ate the superhot seedlings. I guess either mice didn’t notice, didn’t care, liked hot stuff or the pepper plants didn’t have their mojo yet.
I’ll leave them to my wife...she’s younger.
Thanks for the ping. Very interestign.
I Googled “origin of hot chili peppers” and got photos of Los Angeles. You know, “the city of angels,” under the bridge?
But chilies are so central to some other cuisines, like Thai, Chinese (well, some regions) and India it's hard to imagine what their food was like before them.
What would be funny is to show those folks when they had to answer nature's call.
They're just as hot comin' out as they were goin' in. :-P
Yeah, and what about those tiny little ears of corn used in Chinese cuisine?!?
:’) It’s hard to imagine Italian cooking without the tomato, without the pepper, and really I’m just hungry for pizza.
Corn (”maize”), the potato, the tomato, the pepper, and certain squash are some of the most important foods in the world, all from the Americas.
Except the British. They would stubbornly cling to boring, mediocre food for centuries more. :-))
P.S. A really amusing passage from Macaulay just came to mind. As I recall he went on for a page or two about how a really civilized people ate bread, and only dull half savages like the Irish would eat potatoes. No need to ask what he might think of Americans eating mashed potatoes and gravy with our turkey dinners. And turkey? Truly civilized men eat roast beef . . .
As you said, salt was the number one seasoning or condiment, and important also for food preservation, a two birds one stone thing.
Pepper was popular in the Roman Empire, but the trade with India was lost for some time after the muzzies took over the Mideast.
Onions and garlic, and chives, were cultivated back into prehistoric times, apparently. Capers are wild and cultivated throughout Eurasia. Hmm, the wiki-wacky page on onions sez 5000 BC and found alongside dates and figs (remains thereof of course).
Medieval, preColumbian Europeans enjoyed other things that have fallen out of use, such as medlars, and there were other sweet fruits that were used fresh or dried, stuff like mulberries. They ate a wider variety of greens, and some of those have quite a sharp flavor (first thing I’m thinking of is wintercress, which is probably coming up out there, now that we’re about 75 percent sure winter really has gone at last). And unlike us, they ate whatever was available, giving them a theoretically healthier diet.
I’ve heard it said that, the hotter the climate, the hotter the spice, because it has to cover the taste and smell of rotting meat, but I don’t believe that for a second — the Romans had liquamen or garum, which is fermented fish sauce, and while someone must have gotten a bad batch here and there, it wasn’t an epidemic of death — but rotten meat (particularly chicken when it turns) would be, uh, serious.
Heaven Is Where:
The French are the chefs
The Italians are the lovers
The British are the police
The Germans are the mechanics
And the Swiss make everything run on time
Hell is Where:
The British are the chefs
The Swiss are the lovers
The French are the mechanics
The Italians make everything run on time
And the Germans are the police
better version, more like I remember:
Heaven is where the police are British, the lovers French, the mechanics German, the chefs Italian, and it is all organized by the Swiss.
Hell is where the police are German, the lovers Swiss, the mechanics French, the chefs British, and it is all organized by the Italians.