Would a vegetable by any other name taste as sweet?

Red Capsicum Upright100 Day project #20: Capsicum

Couldn’t you just eat by name alone?  Certain foods just sound like poetry: pomegranate, artichoke, celeriac, mandarin, broccolini, coriander are music to my ears and twice as appetising as they might otherwise be.  Equally appealing is anything that sounds sumptuous in French such as mille feuille, bearnaise or creme brulee.

On the other hand ‘Kohlrabi’ sounds like a skin condition and I grow cauliflower (which sounds like some kind of  birth by-product) only because I can plant the purple one, and call it ‘Violet Queen’.  She’s very pretty too.

Despite their superfood status, their fine flavour and their glorious indigo colour, I sometimes struggle to enjoy the Maori Potato Urenika because of its other name ‘tutaekuri’, which most school children will know means ‘dog poo’.  Talk about your truth in advertising!

Consider then the simple capsicum.  How is it that we come to call it by its Latin name while most of the rest of the world simply calls it a ‘bell pepper’?  I do feel the ‘proper name’ gives a sense of dignity and history to this satisfyingly sculptural vegetable.

I appreciate the capsicum not only for that full-on burst of primary colour but also because they are so damned expensive at the moment, and one of the things I find it hardest to grow.  They take a long time in the sun to ripen, and I’m not always that strategic in my planting.  Note to self on that.

Of course the capsicum is a salad standard, either in crunchy slices or grilled with its skin removed.  Jamie Oliver blitzes a jar of chargrilled for his sausage pasta 15 minute meal.  But on dark winter nights I love to eat capsicum cut in half and roasted gently, packed with half a skinned tomato, an anchovy, some capers and a glug of olive oil.  The other day I tried them with green sicilian olives and a slug of balsamic vinegar and found myself greedily content with the result.