Bell peppers are grown from the Capsicum anuum and are produced in different colours. This plant was originally grown in South and Central America, although the seeds were then spread throughout Europe towards the end of the 15th century.
The name ‘pepper’ was given to the fruit because of its similar taste to the condiment of the same name, however, this suggests that peppercorns and the Capsicum anuum are related, when in fact they are not. The corns are born from the Piper nigrum, which is native to India, whereas the plant from which the bell pepper is grown is native to South and Central America. Although the bell pepper is a fruit, it is largely considered to be a vegetable.
Bell peppers are very mild because they do not contain the chemical, capsaicin that causes the sensation of heat. This is because bell peppers have a recessive gene, which has the effect of eliminating the chemical found in other varieties of the fruit.
In the UK, all varieties of the fruit are known as ‘pepper’, yet in other English speaking countries, the term ‘capsicum’ is used instead. Some European countries will use ‘paprika’ to refer to all forms of peppers, although they may –in a similar fashion to the UK – distinguish by colour. Paprika in English is a term used to describe a spice that is made from the ground up fruit. The spice, like the fruit from which it comes from, is also known by many different names.
In Ohio, the bell pepper is known as a mango, as during the 17th century, it was pickled to preserve it. At the time, all fruits that were pickled were known as a ‘mango’. ‘Mango’ is a rare expression but is one that is still used in the area today.
Bell peppers are found in many different colours, depending on where and how they are grown. Green peppers have a slightly different taste to other varieties, and are not as sweet. The sweetest bell peppers are grown in direct sunlight and harvested at their most mature. The red variety has a much higher nutritional value than other varieties.