Though the heat of the chili pepper has taken our culinary adventures to great heights, the spiciness of chili peppers was not designed to attract hungry diners. Spiciness actually evolved to defend the plant against fungal predators.
Peppers, like many fruits, are colorful, sweet, and appetizing, designed to attract animals that help bring seeds to new ground. But along with inviting animals beneficial to the plant’s survival, fruits also lure consumers that destroy seeds. Thus, fruit chemistry hangs in a delicate balance. The chemicals produced by the fruit must keep predators at bay, but must also not negatively affect seed dispersers. (more…)