Pepper, why do we call them that anyways?

So you might ask yourself, why do we call this vegetable (actually it is a “fruit” depending on the definition you use, mentioned before) a “pepper” when we also sprinkle this spice called “pepper” unto our food as well? You don’t chop up the “fruit” of a “pepper” (a bell pepper) into little sprinklets and put it on food to give it a spicy taste do you? Well, sort of, not really.


The word “pepper” comes from an Old English mispronunciation of the latin word “piper.” That is actually what the name of the biological family from which many plants called “pepper” come from (Piperaceae). Other related “peppers” often come from the Capsicum sub family of Solanaceae (deriving their name from a concentration of capsicnoid chemicals mentioned before with reference to the Scoville scale). Though not belonging to the Capscium sub family (not even all that closely related actually), plants of the Piperaceae may also have a concentrated quantity of capsaicin and grows into small immature corns. Those picked corns are boiled and dried and ground into what you might think of as pepper such as Black pepper (Piper nigrum).

Interested in growing your own peppers?

Check out this book Growing your own vegetables

As always if you just like what you learned appeciation



Alcohol, really? Being a bit general here.

Sorry it has been a while, I will be doing more of these, I mean it. The more you show interest the more I will do. Comment if you would like me to cover something.

So I am going past this bar and I see a sign outside that says, “Alcohol” with an arrow pointing into the bar. As a Chemist I think to myself, “Well that seems rather general.” I go in and talk to the bartender and say, “Really, you want people to drink Sterno and wound cleaner?” He asks what I am talking about and I mention the sign outside. It clicked and he snickered, saying in a joking manner, “Yes exactly we are trying to kill our customers.”


For those not picking up on the joke, “alcohol” as a chemistry term is very general. It indicates a hydroxyl group (Oxygen single bound to Hydrogen) singly bound to a chain of carbons. You can have several of them actually, two -OH groups (a “di-” alcohol) or three (tri-) or more. The shortest chain of carbons to which this applies is not a chain at all, but one carbon, forming methanol (the main burning agent in Sterno). Concentrated alcohols are toxic to microorganisms which is why an alcohol, namely propanol that you can pick up in the drug store, is rubbed on your when you are injected with a needle or receiving a cut. Of course if you drink these, it would kill you too.

The alcohol found in beer, wine, and spirits / hard liquor (which requires a special technique) is a two carbon chain long alcohol that can be poisonous in large / concentrated enough amounts, but relaxes you (too much if you consume a lot) in smaller amounts. This is “Ethanol” (note concentrate this is also flammable and is sometimes made for that purpose like in small flammable lighters. Not very pleasant to consume.

So this (ethanol) is something to think about when consuming an “alcoholic beverage.”


Interested in learning how to perform this chemical reaction and make your own beer or wine? Why not get into home brewing!

Home brewing.

If not and you like what you have learned I would always appreciate a small tip if you can.


Differences between fruits and vegetables.

Hey pardon that it has been a while. Just seeing what ideas come up. I hope that you are still interested. Since the main interest here seems to be how cooking and chemistry (and biology) relate, that may wind up being the main focus of future updates.

So you have probably heard it said many times, eat your fruits ad vegetables daily. What is the difference between them though? In scientific terms (biologically speaking), almost nothing!. In scientific terms anything that grows as a plant “vegetates,” so any plant that grows is basically a vegetable.The term “fruit” is more specific scientifically. Basically a fruiting body is derived from the flowering parts of the plant, part of its ovarian tissues, and is used for disseminating seeds. You may have noticed that with tomatoes, commonly called a vegetable and served as part of a garden salad, contain seeds within the outer (most commonly red) shell, much in the same way that an apple does or a banana.


Culinary terms (the common language used by everyday English speakers) describe fruits and vegetables differently. In common and culinary language fruits tend to be sweet and contain many vitamins and minerals but have higher fructose content. Vegetables tend to be savory, not sweet but spicy or salty (or bland or in other ways “not sweet”). So despite having fruit like tissues a tomato is consumed as part of a savory meal.

Want some good info on healthy cooking?

The following link leads to some good offers on healthy cooking, methods good for burning fat, healthier aging, etc. The offers look very good and inexpensive so check them out!

Healthy Cooking

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If you just like what you learned and are not interested in the product I would love a small tip if you can. Go to Tip Thanks!

Spiciness can be measured, food chemistry

In a previous post I mentioned how cooking is chemistry and there are specialized fields of food chemistry. Something neat to learn is that scales for analyzing the spiciness of food and how intensely it will interact with your tongue have actually been developed. A food chemist by the name of Wilbur Scoville developed a scale for measuring how different pungent chemicals, called “capsinoids,” (based on the chemical capsaicin) will interact based on their dry weight concentration.

Different people have different sensitivities to the spice so the scale is somewhat subjective. You have probably seen these scales before (it is May 25, 2015, go into a Wendy’s and you will see a Scoville scale right now as they are advertising Ghost Pepper fries).


Wikipedia has a great article on this,

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Cooking is chemistry!

If anyone would like a question answers they are welcome to comment and ask me as I get readers (I am new now so I don’t expect many people but I am just starting and starting to promote my site so this will take time. (I saw people asking the question “Why are manhole covers round,” a common interview question and I can tell you why in a moment). I am a chemist professionally and it is interesting because many in my family love to cook. What is really interesting is that, cooking IS chemistry. Cooking is commonly defined as the usage of mixing and preparation techniques of items intended for consumption, often involving heat. Chemistry has to do with the examination and change of matter substances at the molecular level. The thing is, heat and preparation of items involved for consumption causes molecules of the items to change. You could examine food at the molecular level biochemically speaking and see that the food is made up of biological molecules, things like proteins and carbohydrates. Those things change when mixed and heated. Do milk eggs and flour when mixed together in the right proportions look anything like they did originally after being mixed and baked into a cake? There are even specialists in food chemistry.

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Cats have breeds!

Most people are familiar with dog breeds (though they may not realize it). Many don’t realize that cats have breeds too. You call dog breeds by a certain common name like “Doberman” or “Bulldog” which describes certain common characteristics among individuals of that breed. Cats have that too. You probably have heard of plenty of them like Poodle or Labrador (or even combination breeds, like Cock-a-Poo).

Try looking up a cat breed like a Persian or a Siamese. I say this as we have a Maine Coon at home who is adorable and I showed a student a picture of her once and the student had only recently become familiar with the idea of cats having breeds.

Look a few up and learn something new!

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