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iconThe Pepper History
by Darren Gergle

Contrary to popular belief, the chile pepper did not originate in India. The chile 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 chile 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 chile 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 chile 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 chile, 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 chile pepper becomes a staple in North American diets as well!

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