History Of The Chili Pepper
Contrary to popular belief, the chili pepper did not
originate in India. The chili pepper comes from South America, although
exactly where in South America it originated is a subject of much
debate. Many believe it first grew somewhere in central Bolivia, but
this remains to be fully substantiated.
The misconception of the origin of the chili stems back to the time of Columbus. Columbus believed he had discovered the Far East. He also believed he found a new type of black pepper - thus naming it pepper. What Columbus really found was not related to black pepper at all. It was referred to as ají by the local populations. Ají is what we now call the chili pepper. Columbus took the pepper with him back to the Iberian Peninsula, and it quickly spread around the world. It spread so quickly, and became such a substantial part of Indian and some Chinese cultures, that for a long while the pepper was believed to have come from India or Indochina.
The chili pepper found a home in many countries. The Thai culture consumes more hot peppers than any other peoples. The people of Thailand consume an average of five grams of hot peppers per person, per day. This is more than twice the average of the people of India. The Korean people are close behind the Thais. Kimchi, a common Korean food, is strongly spiced with dried red pepper.
Even with the worldwide popularity of the chili, it has only recently made inroads into the eastern part of North America. However, it's popularity has been fast rising. Thai restaurants now exist in most cities, and hot pepper specialty shops are popping up all over. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before the chili pepper becomes a staple in North American diets as well!