Why are foods from cultures near the equator so spicy? The answer might surprise you...
Collective wisdom suggests that since the climate by the equator is warmer, food spoils quicker, so the spices helped better preserve the food. But where did the spices come from in the first place?
Researchers in Bolivia found a fungus that grows near the equator that destroys seeds. Peppers that contained "capsaicin" (a spicy chemical), are resistant to this seed-eating fungus. The researchers found that where there was more seed-eating fungus, the peppers that survived were too spicy for the fungus to eat them.
But why do people eat them? One theory: spicy peppers are immune to fungus - that's why they're so popular. The spicier the food is, the less likely it has fungus that makes people sick. Also, before there were refrigerators, the spices could have worked as a food preservative, the way Europeans used to use salt.