So where do chile peppers come from? For hundreds of years most Europeans believed that chile peppers came from India or the Far East. Probably because Columbus sailed into the Caribbean, found some peppers belonging to the native people, and thought he was somewhere near India. In fact there is strong evidence that capsicums originally spread from South America where they were first cultivated perhaps as early as 5000BC.
Once the New World was 'discovered' in the Middle Ages and the trading routes opened up the world, the chile pepper spread with amazing speed; such was its popularity. The map below is a rough guide to chile pepper distribution worldwide. Countries such as Spain, Italy, The Neatherlands, Portugal and Hungary look to have an unusually high number of chile peppers but this notion of trading can help to explain the distribution, and their popularity in the Far East. Another way of looking at the world distribution of peppers is to go to our growing map where you can zoom out to get a clear picture of where people grow peppers.
This map above shows the number of pepper varieties associated with each country. For a far more comprehensive guide to chile pepper history follow some of these links:
History and discovery [external link]