- Major entries:
- Capsicum annuum Linn. Cayenne Pepper. Chillies. Guinea Pepper. Pimento. Red Pepper.
- Capsicum frutescens Linn. Age. Chili Pepper. Goat Pepper. Spur Pepper.
- Capsicum tetragonum Mill. Bonnet Pepper. Lunan Pepper. Paprika. Turkish Pepper.
- Groups of capsicum
Tropical America. Ancient Sanscrit or Chinese names for the genus are not known. The first mention that is on record is by Peter Martyr in his epistle dated Sept. 1493, when he says Columbus brought home with him "pepper more pungent than that from Caucasus." In his Decades of the Ocean he says: "There are innumerable Kyndes of Ages, the varietie whereof, is known by theyr leaves and flowers. One kind of these, is called guanaguax, this is white both within and without. Another named guaraguei is of violet colour without and white within. Squi are whyte within and without. Tunna is altogether of violet colours. Hobos is yelowe both of skynne and inner substance. There is an other named atibunicix, the skynne of this is of violet coloure and the substance white. Aniguamar hath his skynne also of violet coloure and is white within. Guaccaracca hath a white skynne and the substance of violet colour. There are many other, which are not yet brought to us." This variability indicates an antiquity of cultivation.
Veytia says the Olmecs raised chilis before the time of the Toltecs. Sahagun mentions capsium more frequently than any other herb among the edible dishes of the Aztecs. Acosta says it is the principal sauce and the only spice of the Indians. Bancroft says it was eaten by the Nahuathan natives both green and dry, whole and ground. Gardlasso de la Vega speaks of it as an ancient vegetable in Peru, and one variety was especially valued by royalty. The earliest reference to this genus seems to be by Chanca, physician to the fleet of Columbus, in his second voyage, and occurs in a letter written in 1494 to the Chapter of Seville. Capsicum and its uses are more particularly described by Oviedo, who reached tropical America from Spain in 1514.
Hans Stade, about 1550, mentions the capsicum of the continent of America as being of two kinds: "The one yellow, the other red, both, however, grow in like manner. When green it is as large as the haws that grow on hawthorns. It is a small shrub, about half a fathom high and has small leaves; it is full of peppers which burn the mouth." Lignon in his History of the Barbadoes, 1647 to 1653, describes two sorts in Barbados: "The one so like a child's corall, as not to be discerned at the distance of two paces, a crimson and scarlet mixt; the fruit about three inches long and shines more than the best pollisht corall. The other, of the same colour and glistening as much but shaped like a large button of a cloak; both of one and the same quality; both violently strong and growing on a little shrub no bigger than a gooseberry bush." Long says there are about 15 varieties of capsicum in Jamaica, which are found in most parts of the island. Those which are most commonly noticed are the Bell, Goat, Bonnett, Bird, Olive, Hen, Barbary, Finger and Cherry. Of these the Bell is esteemed most proper for pickling. Wafer, 1699, speaking of the Isthmus, says: "They have two sorts of pepper, the one called Bell-pepper, the other Bird-pepper, each sort growing on a weed or shrubby bush about a yard high. The Bird-pepper has the smaller leaf and is most esteemed by the Indians."
Garcilasso de la Vega in his Royal Commentaries, 1609, says the most common pepper in Peru is thick, somewhat long, and without a point. This is called rocot uchu, or thick pepper, to distinguish it from the next kind. They eat it green and before it assumes its ripe color, which is red. There are others yellow and others brown, though in Spain only the red kind has been seen. There is another kind the length of a geme, a little more or less, and the thickness of the little finger. These were considered a nobler kind and were reserved for the use of the royal family. Another kind of pepper is small and round, exactly like a cherry with its stalk. They call it chinchi uchu and it bears far more than the others. It is grown in small quantities and for that reason is the more highly esteemed. Molina says many species of the pimento, called by the Indians thapi, "are cultivated in Chili, among others the annual pimento which is there perennial, the berry pimento, and the pimento with a subligenous stalk." Capsicums were eaten in large quantities by the ancient inhabitants of tropical America, and the natives of Guiana now eat the fruit in such abundance as would not be credited by an European unless he were to see it. In Sonora and New Mexico, at the present time, they are universally grown, and the pods while green are eaten with various substances, under the name of chille verde, while the dishes prepared with the red pods are called chille colorom.
Capsicum was brought to Spain by Columbus in 1493. It is mentioned in England in 1548 and was seen by Clusius in Moravia in 1585. Clusius asserts that the plant was brought to India by the Portuguese. Gerarde says these plants are brought from foreign countries, as Guinea, India and those parts, into Spain and Italy, whence we have received seed for our English gardens. There are many peppers, some of which it is more convenient to describe as species
Tropical regions. Booth says this species was introduced into Europe by the Spaniards and that it was cultivated in England in 1548. The fruits are variable, some being yellow, others red and others black. The pods, according to London, are long or short, round or cherry-shaped. In lower Hungary, the variety now very largely cultivated for commercial purposes, has a spherical, scarlet fruit. It is cultivated in India, in America, and, indeed, almost everywhere in warm countries.
Capsicum baccatum Linn. Bird Pepper. Birds-Eye Pepper.
Tropical regions. Booth says this species is indigenous to both the East and West Indies and has been grown in England since 1731. The pods are erect, roundish, egg-shaped, very pungent. It was probably early introduced into India as shown by the belief that it is native. It is used like other red peppers by the Mexicans who call it chipatane.
Capsicum cerasiforme Mill. Cherry Pepper.
Tropics. Its stem is 12 to 15 inches high; fruit erect, of a deep, rich, glossy scarlet when ripe; of intense piquancy. A variety occurs with larger, more conical and pendent pods, and there is also a variety with yellow fruit.
Tropical America. This plant is considered by some botanists as a native of India, as it has constantly been found in a wild state in the Eastern Islands, but Rumphius argues its American origin from its being so constantly called Chile. It is the aji or uchu seen by Cieza de Leon in 1532-50, during his travels in Peru and even now is a favorite condiment with the Peruvian Indians. This pepper is cultivated in every part of India, in two varieties, the red and the yellow, and in Cochin China. In Ceylon there are three varieties, a red, a yellow and a black. It has been in English gardens since 1656. Its long, obtuse pods are very pungent and in their green and ripe state are used for pickling, for making Chile vinegar; the ripe berries are used for making cayenne pepper. Burr describes the fruit as quite small, cone-shaped, coral-red when ripe, and intensely acrid but says it will not succeed in open culture in the north.
Capsicum minimum Roxb. Cayenne Pepper.
Philippine Islands. This is said to be the cayenne pepper of India. Wight says this pepper is eaten by the natives of India but is not preferred. It grows also on the coast of Guinea and is recognized as a source of capsicum by the British Pharmacopoeia. It is intensely pungent.
Tropical regions. This species is said by Booth to be the bonnet pepper of Jamaica. The fruits are very fleshy and have a depressed form like a Scotch bonnet. In lower Hungary, under the name paprika, the cultivation gives employment to some 2500 families. The fruit is red, some three and a half to five inches long, and three-quarters of an inch to an inch in diameter.
McMahon, 1806, says capsicums are in much estimation for culinary purposes and mentions the Large Heart-shaped as the best. He names also the Cherry, Bell and Long Podded. In 1826, Thorbum offers in his catalog five varieties, the Long or Cayenne, the Tomato-shaped or Squash, the Bell or Ox-heart, the Cherry and the Bird or West Indian. In 1881 he offers ten varieties.
In the varieties under present cultivation, we have distinct characters in the calyx of several of the groups and in the fruit being pendulous or erect. It is worthy of note that the pendulous varieties have a pendulous bloom as well as fruit, and the erect varieties have erect bloom. Some heavy fruits are erect, while some light fruits are pendulous. Another distinct character is the flavor of the fruit, as for instance all the sweet peppers have a like calyx, and a like color. While again there may seem at first to be considerable variability in the fruits even on the same plant, yet a more careful examination shows that this variability is more apparent than real and comes from a suppression or distortion of growth, all really being of a similar type.
This history of the botany of the groups can best be seen by the synonymy, which is founded upon figures given with the descriptions.
I. The calyx embracing the fruit.
- (a) Fruits pendulous.
This form seems to have been the first introduced and presents fruits of extreme pungency and is undoubtedly that described as brought to Europe by Columbus. It presents varieties with straight and recurved fruit and the fruit when ripe is often much contorted and wrinkled.
- Capsicum longum. DC. from Fingerhuth.
- Siliquastrum tertium. Langer Indianischer Pfeffer. Fuch. 733. 1542.
- Siliquastrum minus. Fuch. 1. c. 732.
- Indianischer pfeffer. Saliquastrum. Roeszl. 214. 1550.
- Indianischer pfeffer. Trag. 928. 1552.
- Piper indicum. Cam. Epit. 347. 1586.
- Capsicum oblongius Dodonaei. Dalechamp 632. 1587.
- Piper indicum minus recurvis siliquis. Hort. Eyst. 1613, 1713.
- Piper indicum maximum longum. Hort. Eyst. 1613, 1713.
- Capsicum recurvis siliquis. Dod. 716. 1616.
- Piper Calecuticum, sive Capsicum oblongius. Bauh. J. 2:943. 1650.
- Siliquastrum, Ind. pfeffer. Pancov. n. 296. 1673.
- Piper Capsicum. Chabr. 297. 1677.
- Piment de Cayenne. Vilm. 151. 1885.
- Long Red Cayenne. Ferry.
- Mexican Indian, four varieties, one of the exact variety of Fuch. 1542.
- Siliquastrum majus. Fuch. 732. 1542.
- Long Yellow Cayenne. Hend.
- Capsicum longum luteum. Fingerhuth.
- (b) Fruits erect.
- Capsicum annuum acuminatum. Fingerhuth.
- Piper ind. minimum erectum. Hort. Eyst. 1613,1713.
- Piper ind. medium longum erectum. Hort. Eyst. 1613, 1713.
- Piper longum minus siliquis recurvis. Jonston Dendrog. 56. 1662. Pigment du Chili. Vilm. 410. 1883.
- Chili pepper. Vilm. 151. 1885.
- Red Cluster. Vilm.
- Yellow Chili. Hend.
II. Calyx pateriform, not covering the flattened base of the fruit.
- (a) Fruits long, tapering, pendent.
- Piper indicum sive siliquastrum. Pin. 12. 1561.
- Capsicum actuarii. Lob. Obs. 172, 1576; Icon. l;3i6. 1591.
- Capsicum majus. Dalechamp 632. 1587.
- Capsicum longioribus siliquis. Ger. 292. 1597.
- Piper indicum. Matth. Op. 434. 1598.
- Capsicum oblongioribus siliquis. Dod. 716. 1616.
- Pepe d'lndia. Dur. C. 344. 1617.
- Figures 13 and 14. Piso De Ind. 226. 1658.
- Guinea pepper or garden coral. Pomet 125. 1748.
- Piper indicum bicolor. Blackw. Herb. n. 129, f. 2. 1754.
- Piment rouge long. Vilm. 409. 1883.
- Long Red capsicum or Guinea. Vilm. 150. 1885.
- (b) Fruits short, rounding, pendent.
- Siliquastrum quartum. Fuch. 734. X542.
- Siliquastrum cordatum. Cam. Epit. 348. 1586.
- Fig. 2 and 6. Piso 225. 1658.
- Piper cordatum. Jonston Dendrog. 56. 1662.
- Capsicum cordiforme, Mill. Fingerhuth.
- Oxheart. Thorb.
- New Oxheart. Thorb.
III. Calyx funnel-form, not embracing base of fruit.
- (a) Fruit pendent, long.
- Piper indicum medium. Hort. Eyst. 1613, 1713.
- Piper siliquis flams. Hort. Eyst. 1613, 1713.
- Piper indicum aureum latum. Hort. Eyst. 1613,1713.
- Fig. in Hernandez. Nova Hisp. 137. 1651.
- Piper indicum longioribus siliquis rubi. Sweert. t. 35, f. 3. 1654.
- Piper vulgatissime. Jonston t. 56. 1662.
- Piper oblongum recurvis siliquis. Jonston t. 56. 1662.
- Capsicum fructu conico albicante, per maturitaken minato. Dill. t. 60. 1774.
- Piment jaune long. Vilm. 409. 1883.
- Long Yellow Capsicum. Vilm. 151. 1885.
- (b) Fruits pendent, round.
- Siliquastrum rotundum. Cam. Epit. 348. 1586.
- Piper rotundum majus surrectum. Jonston t. 56. 1662.
- Figure 5. Piso 225. 1658.
- Cherry Red, of some seedsmen.
- (c) Fruits erect, round.
- Piper minimum siliquis rotundis. Hort. Eyst. 1613,1713.
- Capsicum cersasiforme. Fingerhuth.
- Piment cerise. Vilm. 411. 1883.
- Cherry Pepper. Burr 621. 1863; Vilm. 152. 1885.
IV. Calyx funnel-form, as large as base; fruit more or less irregularly swollen, not pointed, pendent.
- Capsicum luteum. Lam. Fingerhuth. t. 8.
- Prince of Wales, of some seedsmen (yellow).
- (Perhaps) Capsicum latum Dodanaei. Dalechamp 632. 1587.
- Capsicum latis siliquis. Dod. 717. 1616.
- Capsicum siliquis latiore and rotundiore. Bauh. J. 2:943. 1651.
- Piper capsicum siliqui latiori et rotundiore. Chabr. 297. 1677.
V. Calyx set in concavity of fruit.
This character perhaps results only from the swollen condition of the fruit as produced by selection and culture. As, however, it appears constant in our seedsmen's varieties, it may answer our purpose here.
- (a) Fruit very much flattened.
- Piper indicum rotundum maximum. Hort. Eyst. 1613, 1713.
- Solanum mordeus, etc..
- Bonnet Pepper. Pluk. Phyt. t. 227, p. i. 1691.
- Capsicum tetragonum. Fingerhuth t. 10.
- Piment tomato. Vilm. 413. i886.
- Red Tomato capsicum or American bonnet. Vilm. 154. 1885.
- (b) Fruit squarish, angular, very much swollen, large.
This group includes the Bell, Sweet Mountain, Monstrous, and Spanish Mammoth of Vilmorin; the Giant Emperor, Golden Dawn, etc. of American seedsmen. The varieties of this class seem referable to Capsicum annuum rugulosum Fing., C. grossum pomiforme Fing. and C. angulosum Fing. but these have not yet been sufficiently studied.
Group V embraces the sweet peppers and none other. A sweet kind is noted by Acosta, 1604, and it is perhaps the rocot uchu of Peru, as mentioned by Garcilasso de la Vega. Sweet peppers are also referred to by Piso, 1648.
Occasionally Capsicum baccatum Linn. is grown, but the species is too southern for general use in the North. Its synonymy follows:
- Capsicum, Piper indicum brevioribus siliquis. Lob. Obs .172. 1576; Icon .1:317. 1591.
- Capsicum brasilianum. Dalechamp 633. 1587; Pancov. n. 297. 1673.
- Capsicum minimis siliquis. Ger. 292. 1597; Dod. 717. 1616.
- Fig. 8. Piso De Ind. 225. 1658.
- Peperis capsicivarietas, siliqua parva, etc. Chabr. 297. 1677.
- Capsicum baccatum Linn. Fingerhuth t. 4.
- Small Red Cayenne. Briggs Seed Cat. 1874.
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World, 1919, was edited by U. P. Hedrick.