Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Spicy New Hybrids

    One of the most popular spices known to man is the chili pepper. It is used as a spice to add heat and flavor to many culinary dishes, and comes from the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, members of the nightshade family-- Solanaceae. There are currently 35 different species of peppers in the Capsicum family, which leads to constant changes in their genetic relatedness; and scientists recently discovered an entirely new host of chili hybrids that, "could be grown by crossing domesticated peppers with their wild cousins."

As scientists continued to improve their understanding of the relationship between Capsicum species and hybrids, they also stumbled upon a misidentification of several species that were wrongly characterized. The study published in the journal, PLOS ONE, explains, "Based on a phylogeny constructed by genotyping using single sequence repeat (SSR) markers and with a portion of the waxy locus, and through principal component analysis (PCA) of phenotypic data, we clarify the relationships among wild and domesticated Capsicum species." Yet, even then, the full phylogeny of Capsicum is still unresolved.

An upside to these newfound hybrids is that chilies tend to be rather difficult to cultivate and maintain. These hybrids will allow breeders to create chilies that are both, disease resistant and increase productivity. "Many of the many wild species have better disease resistance and so our findings could be valuable for identifying candidates for future breeding programs, potentially increasing productivity for food producers, and maybe even creating some new flavors to explore too!" lead author of the study, Catherine Parry explains. 

Finding new species and hybrids of food and spices can lead to great improvements and advances in both the world and our diets. I think it's great that we are constantly learning and adapting to these newfound scientific discoveries. Plus, who doesn't like a little "kick" in their food!




1 comment:

  1. Even though I am not a fan of spicy food, it is intriguing to find new ways to hybridize existing species. The range of the hybridization is only due to the genetic similarities of the parent peppers even though separated by geography and climate