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Chilis are found all across the world, and the heat that they create is vital to the cultures of many people living thousands of miles apart. But you might be shocked to know that in most places, chilis are not a native plant.

“Ask a Chinese chili lover or an Indian or a Thai and most will swear that chilis are native to their homeland, so integral is the spice to their cooking, so deeply embedded is it in their culture.” Writes Time Magazine in an article about how chili peppers made it across the world.

Chilis need a wet and hot place to grow, which is what makes South America a good place for them to start growing. Specifically, these peppers started to grow and be cultivated in Mexico about 5000 years ago. In fact, they did not start to travel the globe until about 500 years ago, when Christopher Columbus got lost and ended up in South America.

For many people who have incorporated the chili into their daily cuisine and culture, this may be something shocking to hear. While chilis nowadays are grown across the world in many different climates, they grow best in climates that are both wet and hot.

Chilis are something that are going to be around for a long time. But when it comes to who to thank for the awesome flavor you add to Asian, Thai, or Chinese dishes, I would thank South America. Without their cultivation, we would not have the flavors and cultures that we have today.