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


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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