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Birthplace of the domesticated chili pepper identified in Mexico
Phys.Org ^ | 04-18-2014 | by Pat Bailey AND Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Posted on 04/18/2014 9:49:58 AM PDT by Red Badger

Central-east Mexico gave birth to the domesticated chili pepper—now the world's most widely grown spice crop—reports an international team of researchers, led by a plant scientist at the University of California, Davis.

Results from the four-pronged investigation—based on linguistic and ecological evidence as well as the more traditional archaeological and genetic data—suggest 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 agriculture—a 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.

TOPICS: Agriculture; Food; Gardening; History
KEYWORDS: agriculture; animalhusbandry; capsaicin; chili; dietandcuisine; domestication; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; helixmakemineadouble; huntergatherers; mexico; pepper
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To: blam

I Googled “origin of hot chili peppers” and got photos of Los Angeles. You know, “the city of angels,” under the bridge?

41 posted on 04/18/2014 12:44:51 PM PDT by dangus
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To: Red Badger


42 posted on 04/18/2014 1:55:12 PM PDT by Scoutmaster (Is it solipsistic in here, or is it just me?)
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To: who knows what evil?
Fiery crop! Had pickled Jolokias before, WOW!
43 posted on 04/18/2014 2:28:05 PM PDT by nomad
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To: Red Badger; SunkenCiv
I guess I had just assumed chilies originated in several places instead of just one. Makes sense that would be Mexico.

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.

44 posted on 04/18/2014 2:38:29 PM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: Dr. Bogus Pachysandra
There was a game show based upon which contestant could eat the hottest food. It was hilarious!

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

45 posted on 04/18/2014 4:04:03 PM PDT by uglybiker (nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-BATMAN!)
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To: colorado tanker

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.

46 posted on 04/18/2014 6:51:00 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (
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To: SunkenCiv
European food must have been really boring before the voyages of discovery. The only widely available seasoning was salt. Pepper was only for the super rich. The onion family would add some flavor. Probably explains why the Europeans so enthusiastically embraced the foods from the New World.

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 . . .

47 posted on 04/19/2014 1:24:54 PM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: colorado tanker

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.

48 posted on 04/19/2014 2:14:01 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (
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To: colorado tanker

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

49 posted on 04/19/2014 2:56:48 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (
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To: colorado tanker; Berosus

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.

50 posted on 04/19/2014 2:57:46 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (
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To: SunkenCiv

LOL, did I tell you that joke, SunkenCiv?

I guessing you shared this to me because you remembered I have a hot pepper logo on Delphiforums, too.

51 posted on 04/19/2014 3:25:57 PM PDT by Berosus (I wish I had as much faith in God as liberals have in government.)
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To: Black Agnes

Just curious, how do you prevent cross pollination and hybrids from occurring with that many varietals growing together?

52 posted on 04/21/2014 5:44:28 AM PDT by 31R1O
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