Peppers of the Americas: The Remarkable Capsicums That Forever Changed Flavor

Image of Peppers of the Americas: The Remarkable Capsicums That Forever Changed Flavor
Release Date: 
July 31, 2017
Publisher/Imprint: 
Lorena Jones Books
Pages: 
352
Reviewed by: 

“Peppers of the Americas is both a stunning visual guide to the world of peppers and a definitive compendium . . .”

Opening Peppers of the Americas is akin to opening an encyclopedia, cookbook, and historical record all at once. Three-time James Beard award winner Maricel Presilla brings the past and present of peppers to life with clear and informative writing and beautiful photographs.

In the first section Presilla dives deeply into the origins and migration of peppers. From central Bolivia 20,000 years ago to the Pacific Coast, she discusses the cultural and geographical factors that allowed peppers to become one of the most important ingredients in the western hemisphere. It’s enjoyable to gain a deeper understanding of how the pepper’s rise to importance evolved. While there are points where the digging gets a little too deep (discussing archeobotanists and radioisotopes, for example), the reader never gets bogged down in superfluous information. Presilla is excellent at making every bit of information count in context.

Once past the history of peppers, the reader moves to Pepper Anatomy and Heat. This section is filled with information on the physical aspects of peppers, what makes a pepper hot, and the nutritional benefits eating peppers may provide. This section also addresses the Science of Tasting, a fascinating look at the Scoville scale, a system devised by Wilbur Scoville used to measure heat intensity in a pepper. From there Presilla discusses common domesticated capsicums and where they are found globally, even touching on pepper agribusiness. As with the earlier sections there is useful and fascinating information here, a splash of nerdy vocabulary, and more gorgeous photographs.

A gorgeous visual reference guide, Peppers of the Americas presents information on nearly two hundred pepper varieties, both hot and mild, in an alphabetical format that makes it easy to find what is needed. Each entry includes information on the appearance, flavor, and size of the pepper, as well as occasional facts or trivia to make it even more interesting. Every entry also includes a picture of the pepper, a brilliantly helpful inclusion for casual cooks who may not be adept at recognizing many peppers by sight.

The last portion of the book includes more than 40 regional recipes for main dishes, salsas, and more. From Basic Dried Pepper Paste to Tropical Shrimp Ceviche with Yuca, there is a wide range of recipes for every level of cooking expertise. This section also includes helpful information for growing, drying, and pickling peppers—a welcome feature for those looking to explore peppers more deeply but may be inexperienced in the kitchen.

With loads of information and more than 225 color photographs, Peppers of the Americas is both a stunning visual guide to the world of peppers and a definitive compendium for your culinary reference shelf.