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Ancient Mexican Food

July 25, 2007

Mexican food may have changed surprisingly little over the last millennium.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Some really old spice. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you could travel back in time to the Mexico of a thousand years ago, the food would probably have a familiar kick to it. This according to archaeo-botanist Linda Perry of the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. She and her colleagues discovered well-preserved scraps of domesticated chili peppers in an ancient Mexican shelter cave. The peppers date back five to fifteen hundred years. Perry was struck by the variety: ten different kinds of peppers in all, including seven in a single location.

LINDA PERRY (National Museum of Natural History):
Because you’re not going to be growing seven different kinds of peppers if you’re not making some really interesting food.

HIRSHON:
What’s more, she says the peppers appear to have been used in both fresh and dried forms – providing a broad spectrum of spices that could fuel dishes similar to today’s Mexican specialties. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.