By Harold McGee
Capsicums, like tomatoes, are fruits of the New World that conquered the Old. They were domesticated in South America, and are now a defining element of the cuisines of Mexico, Spain, Hungary, and many countries in Asia (the countries with the highest per capita consumption are Mexico and Korea). This triumph is due largely to the defensive chemical capsaicin, which activates pain and heat receptors in our mouths, and which many human cultures have perversely come to love. This spicy aspect of the chillis is what inspired Columbus to call them peppers, though they’re not at all related to true black pepper. (Chilli was the Aztec term.) For chillis as spices, see chapter 8.