Wednesday Vignette – fiery, lit, and finally enlightened

How are you all holding up? We’re still mostly isolating ourselves at home which offers plenty of time to do all kinds of things. For a while now, I’ve wanted to improve my cooking skills using variations of both capsicum and legumes, so I started actually reading some of the cookbooks on the shelf – primarily a book on Indian cuisine, a recently acquired one on Peruvian cooking, and another one on chili peppers. Suddenly I learned something that is so painfully obvious that I feel like I should have known this for at least as long as I’ve been a gardener.

Green tomatoes on the vine

Couldn’t find a shot of a pepper, but here are close cousins – green tomatoes, ripening on the vine.

You know the nightshade family – Solanaceae? In particular, the members of the subfamily Solanoideae; potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, etc.? I think it’s fairly common knowledge that those all came from South America – right? And yet, it totally blew my mind to learn that ALL of the world cuisines as we know them today, have the Portuguese to thank for the global spread of the members of the Solanaceae family, and the Capsicum genus. That’s right – before that fateful October day when Cristóbal Colón cast anchor off the east coast of the Americas, no other part of our planet had anything remotely like a chili pepper!!! A hundred years or so later, it was EVERYWHERE!! Wow… I can’t even imagine Ethiopian, Thai or Indian food without it. What a gigantic, historic, culinary watershed moment!

As plants and growers are wont to do, over the next 5 – 600 years the various peppers mutated, were crossbred and further hybridized. Now, there are varieties that we consider typical for the various regions – piri piri in East Africa and birdseye peppers in Southeast Asia, to name a couple. This might explain how I had so completely missed making this connection, but holy crap – what a life altering revelation!! Not to forget the other three major staples either – what would the Swedes and the Irish be without potatoes, the Chinese without the eggplant, and the Italians without the tomato? I’m stunned! And also very, very grateful I picked up that book.

Stay well, everyone!



About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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11 Responses to Wednesday Vignette – fiery, lit, and finally enlightened

  1. Pingback: Wednesday Vignette – time to find our humanity | Flutter & Hum

  2. bergstromskan says:

    Thank you Anna. for sharing your insight and your spontaneous joy through your writing.. It is such a gift to me

  3. Tina says:

    Glad you’re well, Anna. I like your “culinary watershed ” phrase. I’ve often wondered just how bland the currently rich-hot world foods were before the chili were transplanted everywhere! I haven’t a WV today, as my wildlife thing is happening. 🙂

  4. Indeed peppers are everything and it’s hard to imagine them not everywhere. We had to trek to the grocery store yesterday and hit the FM on Lombard. While Andrew braved the checkout line I escaped to the nursery dept. I almost let myself buy pepper starts, then I saw the tomatoes, in March! (well, it was yesterday). Too early!!! So I left empty handed.

    My WV:

  5. tonytomeo says:

    It sort of makes one wonder what the Irish ate before, or what the Russians made their vodka with.

    • annamadeit says:

      Hahaha – who knows? I know the Irish ate a lot of turnips. Maybe the Russians too? I think they mostly made vodka from cereal grains. That’s what the Swedes do to this day. 🙂

  6. autopolis says:

    Great article Anna! I would have never linked chilli peppers to the Portuguese. Glad everyone’s doing OK. Working from home is not all that bad. I’m using the extra time to learn 1st grade math.

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