Capsicum

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Capsicum is a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family, Solanaceae. Its species are native to the Americas, where they have been cultivated for thousands of years by the people of the tropical Americas, and are now cultivated worldwide. Some of the members of Capsicum are used as spices, vegetables, and medicines. The fruit of Capsicum plants have a variety of names depending on place and type. They are commonly called chilli pepper, red or green pepper, or sweet pepper in Britain, and typically just capsicum in Australian, New Zealand, and Indian English. The large mild form is called bell pepper in the U.S. and Canada. They are called paprika in some other countries (although paprika can also refer to the powdered spice made from various capsicum fruit). The generic name is derived from the Greek word καπτο (kapto), meaning "to bite" or "to swallow."[3]

The original Mexican term, chilli (now chile in Mexico) came from the Nahuatl word chilli or xilli, referring to a larger Capsicum variety cultivated at least since 3000 BC, as evidenced by remains found in pottery from Puebla and Oaxaca.[4]

Contents

Capsaicin in capsicum

The fruit of most species of Capsicum contains capsaicin (methyl vanillyl nonenamide), a lipophilic chemical that can produce a strong burning sensation in the mouth of the unaccustomed eater. Most mammals find this unpleasant, whereas birds are unaffected.[5][6] The secretion of capsaicin protects the fruit from consumption by mammals while the bright colors attract birds that will disperse the seeds.

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