Chili peppers came from Ecuadorian rainforests 6,100 years ago
February 15, 2007
Chili peppers were first cultivated 6,100 years in South America according to research published in the current edition of the journal Science
The peppers originated in the lowland rainforests of western Ecuador, not Mexico or Peru as previously believed. The findings are based on analysis of chili pepper starch grains found at seven sites dating from 6,000 years ago to European contact.
“Sorting through microscopic particles and finding a type that distinguishes such an important plant group is like opening a window to the past,” said lead author Linda Perry of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History,. “While we once based our understanding of chili peppers on rare sites with exceptionally good preservation, suddenly we are able to gain incredible insight into ancient agriculture, trade and cuisine by making these plants visible nearly everywhere they occurred.”
“It’s hard to imagine modern Latin American cuisine without chili peppers,” said co-author Dolores
Piperno, Smithsonian scientist at the National Museum of Natural History and at the Smithsonian Tropical
Research Institute in Panama. “We demonstrate that prehistoric people from the Bahamas to Peru were using
chilies in a variety of foods a long time ago. The peppers would have enhanced the flavor of early cultivars such
as maize and manioc and may have contributed to their rapid spread after they were domesticated.”
Today chili peppers are cultivated worldwide and are an important ingredient in cuisines ranging from Asia to Africa.