This week we are pulling the pepper plants. They will often last in the garden until mid-November but as space is dear they must be removed to make room for the winter crops.
Peppers are New World plants, native to Central and South America, and were among the first of the American vegetables transported across the Atlantic and quickly adopted into foreign cuisine. It is now hard to imagine Thai or Indian food without peppers but prior to the 16th century these regions had not the benefit of these fiery fruit.
The most common Capsicum with the English is the cayenne generally known in the colonies as the Guinea pepper. This name is a result of confusion over the origin of the pepper first propagated by John Gerard in 1597 when he wrote, “These plants are brought from forrein countries, as Ginnie, India, and those parts, into Spain and Italy: from whence we have received seed for our English gardens.” Guinea is a country on the coast of western Africa where the slave trade with the Americas originated. Enslaved Africans quickly adopted the pepper in the New World which gave rise to the name; “Guinea” as it was nearly synonymous to “African” in common speech. As explained by Charles Bryant in Flora diaetetica (1783): “This plant is cultivated greatly in the Caribbe Islands, where the inhabitants, and also the Negroes, use the pods in almost all their soups and sauces, and by reason the slaves are exceedingly fond of them, the whole genus has acquired the name of Guinea Pepper.”
We grow two types of hot peppers. The Cayenne and the Scotch bonnet, a form of the habanero pepper.
For a fuller dissertation of the Capsicum genus you are invited to refer to “Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg way, 18th-century methods for today’s organic gardeners” (Rodale Press).