Skip to comments.Red Hot Chili Pepper Research Spices Up Historical Record
Posted on 02/16/2007 11:14:32 AM PST by blam
Contact: Gregory Harris
University of Calgary
Red hot chili pepper research spices up historical record
Archaeologists trace domestication and dispersal of Capsicum species Next time you're shaking Tabasco sauce on your eggs or dried chili pepper flakes on your pizza, you might pause to thank the indigenous Latin American cultures of more than 6,100 years ago that made it possible.
Three University of Calgary researchers, together with international colleagues, have traced the earliest known evidence for the domestication and spread of chili peppers by analysing starch microfossils recovered from grinding stones, sediments and charred ceramic cookware. In a forthcoming article in the journal Science, they report that common varieties of chili peppers (Capsicum species) were widely used in a region extending from the Bahamas to southern Peru.
"Until quite recently it's been assumed that the ancestors of the great highland civilizations, like the Inca and the Aztecs, were responsible for most of the cultural and agricultural advances of the region," says Dr. Scott Raymond, U of C archaeologist and one of the authors of the paper. "We now have evidence that the indigenous people from tropical, lowland areas deserve credit for the domestication of the chili pepper."
Dry, arid areas favour archaeological preservation, whereas tropical regions typically don't -- especially when it comes to foodstuffs. "A relatively recent discovery is that the cooking process doesn't completely destroy the evidence of starchy foods, and traces can still be recovered from the cooking vessels," says Sonia Zarrillo, another co-author of the paper and a U of C PhD student.
The authors report on seven sites throughout the Americas where they found starch grains from chili peppers, the oldest being from sites in Ecuador that date back 6,100 years. These Ecuadorian sites represent the earliest known village sites in the Americas, and were excavated by a team from the University of Calgary, led by Dr. Raymond.
In 2005, international researchers who had gathered at a University of Calgary archaeology conference began comparing notes about an unidentified starch they had recovered from sites around Latin America. Dr. Linda Perry, the lead author of the paper and a researcher with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, subsequently identified the starch as Capsicum.
"It was surprising to find that the chili pepper, which is technically a fruit, left behind evidence of starch, which is more often associated with foods such as maize and root vegetables," says Dr. Ruth Dickau, a U of C post-doctoral researcher and one of the paper's authors. "So much of the research on the origins of agriculture in the region has focused on staple crops, but now here is one of the first condiments that we're able to trace -- it's quite interesting."
Researchers speculate that villagers may have begun growing peppers for household use even farther back than 6,100 years ago, but so far can't pinpoint when domesticated chili peppers first entered the diet.
Although it is generally agreed that the genus Capsicum originated in Bolivia, the centres of domestication of the different species and their dispersal patterns remain speculative, the authors write. With the European conquest, the chili pepper spread around the world and is now associated with the cuisine of many different cultures.
Early Latin American peoples would have found chili peppers, which are rich in vitamin C, to be an excellent complement to fish and starchier foods like maize, beans, yams and corn. "It's also an excellent disguiser," Raymond notes. "If something's not tasting quite right, you can always throw a few chilis in the pot."
Wow, what a great article, considering I sell hot sauce for a living!
In fact, there were no Latins!
Agree, considering I sell Tidy-Bowl.
HA, capitalism at work.
They are chilE peppers, not chilI peppers.........
Wow, I own a Roto-Rooter franchise... the cycle of 'life'...
I make hot pepper jelly, and this year hope to add "made-to-order" salsa to my repetoire.
I have 25 varieties waiting to start :)
It's one of those little things that really bug me.
One uses chilEs to make chilE.
Tell me about your hot sauces, I'm very interested.
At the moment I only sell it by word of mouth locally. (fingers crossed here) I plan on having a road side stand this summer.
PM me if you are interested in sending samples. I'll be glad to test 'em for you.
Wow, chili peppers, now I need them more than ever...
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
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Thanks for the link.
What was your original hobby that turned into selling the hot sauces?
2 Kings 4:
Death in the Pot
38 Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, "Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these men."
39 One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine. He gathered some of its gourds and filled the fold of his cloak. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. 40 The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, "O man of God, there is death in the pot!" And they could not eat it.
41 Elisha said, "Get some flour." He put it into the pot and said, "Serve it to the people to eat." And there was nothing harmful in the pot.
The Hot Chili Peppers are causing global warming. Al Gore said so, therefore, it must be true.
I don't know about the Caribbean claim but I've known for maybe 30 years, based on scientific reports, that capsicum is native to the Mesoamerican lowlands. What's with this "new" research?
Cool. I think Sontava XX by Jardine's is some of the best stuff for pintos, etc. Habanero, but buffered enough to bring out taste not pain.
What kind do you sell?
OK - so we have hot sauce, hot pepper jelly, Preparation H, Tidy-Bowl and Roto-Rooter here.........have we covered everything?
I know what we're missing: Pepcid AC!!!!!
Ping to freeper who sent me that great jar of habanero flakes.
Habaneros are among my foavorite chiles........the taste is really awesome - if you can get past the burn :)
Oh man...........I feel really bad, I knew there was someone else (or two)that I forgot to ping to this thread.......
"A$$ Ripper Hot sauce!"
Is it true that the alkaloids in hot peps can ease stomach acid? I hate payin' for Prevacid!
I'm one of your biggest fans...
Me too. I'm waiting for an habanero breakfast cereal...:)
They are red hot!
OMG..............I can't believe I forgot beer.......Shame on me.
O-o-ok...gov_bean_ counter sells Preparation H and Izzy Dunne sells Tidy-Bowl. I suppose that picture means you sell deodorant? Why the heck is that guy sniffing his own armpits? Yuk!
I'm not quite ready for an habanero cereal, in fact I probably never will be as I don't eat cereal as a rule, but I get your drift :)
Is there a Grammy for this category?
My old cable had a Chinese network. They had a game show that consisted of people eating hotter and hotter foods until all but one dropped out! They had men and women actually taking the clothes off trying to cool down. The item that put everyone over the top was some sort of large Chinese cookie that was made of nothing but ground up chile peppers!
I've been growing one type of chile pepper or another for over 20 years. I dry some, freeze others and turn more into salsas, sauces, and jelly.
The worst experience I ever had was when I put cherry peppers next to habaneros....the cherry peppers actually came out totally unedible. The cross pollination, totally accidental, was disastrous. We just went ahead and pulled up the entire row of cherry peppers.......
That sound PAINFUL!!!!!!!!!!