[Sca-cooks] names for newly discovered plants

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Sun Nov 11 17:45:19 PST 2007

> Okay, I remember the maize (Indian corn) and Turkey, which is more
> obvious, but what was the phrasing or whatever that related capsicum
> peppers to India? Just the "pepper" portion of the name? Was it
> thought that all of the peppers, black, white, long came from India?
> Or was "India" simply being used as a synonym for that area to the East?

Capsicon rubeum & nigrum   Roter und brauner Calcutische Pfeffer
Capsicum oblongius              Langer Indianischer Pfeffer
Capsicum latum                    Breyter Indianischer Pfeffer

Turcicum frumentum              Turkische Korn

Fuchs ties maize to Turkey and the capsicums to India.  In the case of 
maize, it's likely that the grain had entered Central Europe from Turkey, so 
the naming is obvious.  How he tied the Capsicums to India, I have no idea, 
other than there was still some confusion about the difference between India 
and the West Indies, although  Balboa had determined that the Americas were 
not part of Asia when he crossed  the Isthumus of Panama in 1513 and any 
lingering doubts were ended when Magellan passed through the Straits of 
Magellan and entered the Pacific in 1521.

Since Piper nigrum and Piper longnum appear to be missing from the Herbal, I 
wonder if Fuchs may not have been confused by the differences between the 
Pipers and the Capsicums.

Mattioli (1544) says about peppers, "We put among the Peppers this kind 
which we call Indian Pepper because its taste is very biting and sharp.  We 
also still call the Capsicums 'Pepper'."  Since I only have excerpts from 
Mattioli, I can't chase his views on Piper and Capsicum, but apparently 
there was a quaestion about how to classify the Capsicums.

> We sometimes laugh at this use of "India" this and that, including
> the use of the name for the inhabitants of the Americas, but what
> would a better alternative have been for them? If you had come across
> the capsicum pepper(s), what would *you* have called them>?

I believe Columbus refers to them as "aji" and pimento, but I don't have my 
copy of the Diario handy.

> Who knows, we may be faced with this again. Say in 500 years we are
> landing on the planets of another star system and come across native
> vegetation there. How would we name it, except in terms or variations
> of terms that we already know? Perhaps if it was rather hazardous or
> seemed to be particularly useless, we might name it after a disliked
> politician, but that is still naming it after something we know.
> Stefan

Common names might be a little problematic, but I suspect that any 
xenobiologist would apply standard analysis and taxonomy as biologists have 
done since Linnaeus set forth the basic system in Philosophia Botanica 


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