Christopher and the Peppers of the New World
After five weeks at sea, October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus, for the first time, reached the shores of what he thought was Asia. He had estimated that a westward route from Spain to India would be shorter than the overland trade route through Arabia. Spain wanted to take part in the lucrative spice trade, which at the time being was dominated by the Italians and the Arabs, and Columbus meant he had found the solution for how Spain could participate by going west. He went four times.
As we all know, Christopher Columbus was wrong about his assumptions about his landing-place. He was far away from India.
Anyway, among many other unknown vegetables growing in the New World, the various bell peppers were brought back to Europe by Columbus. They were given the misleading name pepper by him.
The fruit of Piper nigrum, which we know as peppercorns, and which is an unrelated plant to bell peppers, were highly valued, and the name “pepper” was at that time applied in Europe to all known spices with a hot and pungent taste, and so naturally extended to the newly discovered vegetable from the New World, a vegetable that comes in a great variety of hotness, from the sweet and mild bell peppers to the hot and pungent chili peppers.
Today the sweet bell pepper is a beloved vegetable, and I find it delicious grilled or roasted.
Grilled or Roasted Sweet Bell Peppers
- Sweet bell peppers, any color you like
- Extra Virgin olive oil
- Balsamico vinegar
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Wash the peppers, dry them and coat them evenly with olive oil. Arrange the peppers on a baking sheet and place the sheet under the grill, or on the highest rack in your oven if you roast them. Keep a watchful eye on the grilling/roasting process. When the peppers get dark splotches turn the peppers over. Use a tong for this so you don’t get burned! The peppers get very hot.
When the peppers are evenly grilled/roasted, remove them from the oven and let them cool as you make the dressing.
Mix 3 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamico vinegar. Add some crushed garlic. Sprinkle the dressing over the lukewarm peppers and use sea salt and freshly ground pepper on top.