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Pepper Origins

April 22, 2014

Researchers trace the origins of pepper domestication to central Mexico.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Hot on the trail of the pepper’s birthplace. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Varieties of a single species, Capsicum annuum. (Eric Hunt/Wikipedia)

Varieties derived from a single pepper species, Capsicum annuum. (Eric Hunt/Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sweet bell pepper and the hot chili pepper are both the same species, Capsicum annuum, and now scientists report that it was first domesticated about 6000 years ago near the valley of Tehuacán, about 150 miles southeast of Mexico City. The detective work combined genetics, archaeology, climate studies—even linguistics, to see when ancient languages first coined a word for pepper. Plant biologist Paul Gepts, at the University of California, Davis, says learning about the pepper’s past is important today.

Paul Gepts (UC, Davis):

So it has even today a practical im portance to know where genetic diversity is located so we can use it to develop new varieties of crops.

HIRSHON:

He adds that the emergence of agriculture was critical to the development of civilization, and this research is writing an important chapter in human history. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.