Where do Chili Peppers come from?
Quatr.us answers questions

History of Peppers

chili peppers
Chili peppers from Central America

There are two main kinds of pepper: black pepper and chili pepper. Chili peppers come from South America, and they're related to other South American plants like tomatoes, tobacco, and potatoes. Chili doesn't taste hot to birds, so possibly the hot taste evolved so that birds would eat the fruit and mammals wouldn't - birds do a better job of spreading chili pepper seeds.

But even if chili pepper plants didn't like people eating them, people liked to eat them anyway! People in South America were gathering this kind of pepper as early as 7500 BC, not long after people first came to South America. By about 4000 BC, farmers were growing chili peppers in South America.

Maya eating salsa
Maya meal - tamales with chili sauce are under the table.

Chili peppers were one of the main foods of the Maya, along with corn, squash, and beans. Maya people often added chili peppers to tortillas or tamales to give them more flavor. They also mixed chili with chocolate and honey.

But our word chili is not from Maya but from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word "chilli". A very common Aztec meal was corn tortillas dipped in chili sauce. Aztec people also liked to mix tomatoes and avocados with chili to make salsa and guacamole.

Learn by doing: go out for Mexican food!
More about Black pepper

Bibliography and further reading about chili peppers:

Nachos Recipe
Ceviche recipe
Spicy Corn
Quatr.us home

Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

Help support Quatr.us!

Quatr.us (formerly "History for Kids") is entirely supported by your generous donations and by our sponsors. Most donors give about $10. Can you give $10 today to keep this site running? Or give $50 to sponsor a page?

Happy New Year! Welcome back! Get ready for Martin Luther King day with these articles about medieval Africa, slavery, the Civil War, emancipation, the civil rights movement, and Martin Luther King Jr. himself. More about King here...