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Peppers: Another Reason to Hate Columbus

Ryan Silverman

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If the genocide of a race is not enough to turn you away from a person, maybe the misnaming of a vegetable (most are actually fruits but whatever) will be.  So what makes a pepper a pepper?  The answer to that question is deeply confused by a blunder of history.

Peppercorn, also known as “black pepper” originated in South Asia, specifically India and is part of the genus piper.  Black pepper had been known about in the Old World for a while; it was found stuffed up the nose of Ramesses II’s mummy.  In classical Greece and Rome it was an expensive and rare spice reserved to the nobility.  It played an even more important role in postclassical Europe; it was spices like peppercorn that inspired Christopher Columbus’s journey.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed to America and arrived at what he thought was India and Japan (spoiler alert, it was not).  On his journey back, he brought back a new vegetable (actually a fruit but again) native to the Americas.  Due to its spicy taste (clearly they did not bring back a bell pepper), the plants from the genus capsicum became known as peppers.  Although it cannot be proven Christopher Columbus was responsible for the mix-up, I prefer to put the blame on him because he was the doofus who thought the Americas were Asia when it should have been pretty clear they are not.

So what makes a pepper a pepper?  The best answer is that it is a pepper if it is spicy, but even then the bell pepper breaks that rule.  The term pepper applied to two geneses of two very different plants, so it really depends on what you’re talking about.  Thanks Christopher Columbus for making peppers so confusing!

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About the Writer
Ryan Silverman, Editor

Ryan is a senior who joined the Breeze junior year.  He is very active in the school and enjoys participating in golf team, concert band, math team,...

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Peppers: Another Reason to Hate Columbus