Tracing History And Origin of Capsicum
Image Credit: Capsicum (Picture Courtesy: Pixabay)

Capsicum is one of the alluring and versatile vegetables. I didn’t taste bell pepper until 2015. Yes, no matter how shocking or weird it may sound to you, this is a reality. Capsicum never made its place in my mother’s heart I believe. Probably, that’s why she did not even introduce her children to this taste-enhancing vegetable. I ate it for the first time during my college days and since then, there is no looking back. I use it in an array of recipes now and as I mentioned earlier, capsicum just takes the flavor mix a notch higher for me.

I sometimes wonder if capsicum was one of the commonly grown vegetables in the past too and does it have Indian origin. My curiosity propelled me to get some information about it on Google. A bit of research answered all my questions.

Capsicum was originated in the American tropics and was used there as food since 7500 BC. It was Columbus who introduced the rest of the world to peppers. Cultivation of capsicum started in Spain in 1493 however it spread to the Mediterranean region and England by 1548. Central Europe got to know about the same by the end of the 16th century. 

Want to know how it reached India? Well, capsicum is a colonial contribution to our country. No matter how disappointing or annoying it may sound but the reality is that there was no chilli in Indian until Europeans arrived here. Does this revelation make you think why European cuisine doesn’t include chilli then? Well, European cuisine is not entirely chilli-free. Europeans may not use the spicy green chilli but they do include the so-called pepper, capsicum in their dishes. Italian, Spanish, Hungarian cuisines do include the use of capsicum. 

Another confusion that many people usually have is about its name. Whether we should call capsicum, a vegetable, or pepper? Well, both works. Though it is essentially a vegetable, it was due to Christopher Columbus, people call it a pepper to this day. In one of his voyages, Columbus accidentally reached South America thinking he has landed in India. In addition to that, he thought the chilli Americans were using in cooking was a type of pepper. That’s what led to confusion in nomenclature. 

As per common belief, Vasco de Gama was the man who brought capsicum to India. Goa was the place where capsicum was first planted and gradually it was spread to Bombay where people called it Gova Mirch. Within 100 years of this incident, India cultivated chilli successfully and started to export capsicum along with other spices to the West. Currently, Indian is the fourth-largest producer of capsicum in the world.