The confused discovery of chilli. Or was it?

Vegetables and salads are served as entremeses (hors d’oeuvres) or starters in spain. Salads can be very simple – a few tomatoes with a sparkling of chopped sweet, mild onion; a bowl of crisp lettuce; sliced oranges with a few black olives; diced tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers – or they can be complex and represent a snack meal.          Source: The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden


The United Salad of America

By Act of Congress, the phrase E pluribus unum (Latin for ‘out of many, one’) was adopted as one of the mottos on the seal of the infant USA. The phrase derives from one used in ‘Moretum’, a Latin poem attributed to Virgil (70-19 BC):

It manus in gyrum; paullatin singula vires

Department proprias; color est e pluribus unus.


In John Augustine Wilstach’s 1884 verse translation, this is rendered as:

Spins round the stirring hand; lose by degrees

Their separate powers the parts, and comes at last

From many several colors one the rules.

Moretum means ‘garden herbs’, and the poem describes the making of a salad of garlic, parsley, rue and onions, seasoned with cheese, salt, coriander and vinegar, and finally sprinkled with oil.



The European Discovery of Chilli

When Columbus landed in the Caribbean, he was so convinced that he had reached the East indies the he named the hot spice he found there ‘pepper of the Indies’. In fact, it was the fruit of plants of the genus Capsicum, Which is native to the New World, and which had been cultivated by native peoples there since around 4000 BC. The confusion has persisted, which is why we call this fruit ‘chilli pepper’, although it is not related to pepper proper, which comes from various Old World species of the genus Piper.

Source: A Curious History of Food and Drink by Ian Crofton

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