Capsicum annuum, Photo: Michael Lahanas
Capsicum annuum is a domesticated species of the plant genus Capsicum native to southern North America and northern South America. The three species C. annuum, C. frutescens and C. chinense all evolved from a single common ancestor located somewhere in the northwest Brazil - Colombia area. This species is the most common and extensively cultivated of the five domesticated capiscums.
Although the species name annuum means “annual” (from the Latin annus “year”), the plant is not an annual and in the absence of winter frosts can survive several seasons and grow into a large perennial shrub. The single flowers are an off-white (sometimes purplish) color whilst the stem is densely branched and up to 60 centimetres (24 in) tall. The fruit is berry which may be green, yellow or red when ripe. Whilst the species can tolerate most climates, C. annuum is especially productive in warm and dry climates.
The species is a source of popular sweet peppers and hot chilis with numerous varieties cultivated all around the world. In American English the plant is commonly known as a chili pepper or bell pepper.
In British English, the sweet varieties are called red or green peppers and the hot varieties chillies, whereas in Australian and Indian English the name capsicum is commonly used for bell peppers exclusively and chilli is often used to encompass the hotter varieties.
Sweet peppers are very often used as a bulking agent in ready-made meals and take-away food, because they are cheap, have a strong flavour, and are colorful. The colorful aspect of peppers increases the visual appeal of the food, making it more appetizing. Foods containing peppers, especially chili peppers, often have a strong aftertaste this is due to the presence of capsinoids in peppers. Capsaicin, a chemical found in chili peppers, creates a burning sensation once ingested which can last for several hours after ingestion.
Hot peppers are used in medicine as well as food in Africa and other countries.
English botanist John Lindley described C. annuum on page 509 of his 1838 'Flora Medica' thus:
Gunna (properties) – ruksh (dry), laghu (light) and tikshan (sharp)
Some cultivars grown specifically for their aesthetic value include the U.S. National Arboretum's Black Pearl and the Bolivian Rainbow. Ornamental varieties tend to have unusually coloured fruit and foliage with colors such as black and purple being notable. All are edible, and most (like Royal Black) are hot.
Notes and references
^ a b "Capsicum annuum L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 1997-01-22. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License