When is a mango not a mango? Why, when it’s a bell pepper, of course! An Indiana listener says she and her Kentucky in-laws have entirely different names for this vegetable. She wants to know why, so we help her sort it out.

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Here are a couple of outdated perspectives which demonstrate how far back the common name for bell peppers as “mango peppers” goes and how ideas of their edibility have varied.

The Florist and Pomologist, and Suburban Gardener: A Pictorial Magazine of Horticulture, and Register of Garden Novelties, edited by Thomas Moore and published in London in 1883.

“The mango pepper is used as a case for pickled cabbage. The flavor is much relished by many people, but it is exceedingly tough and indigestible. It has no value as food whatever and peppers do not deserve a place in any dietary as food, although they might occasionally be useful in a medicinal way for pepper tea.”

The Relation of Food to Health and Premature Death, published in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1897, written and edited by George H. Townsend, Felix J. Levy, Harry G. Nicks, George Clinton Crandall.

“Capiscum (Mango-Pepper) Golden Dawn.—A new Capiscum combining the decorative with the useful. It is designated a New American Mango-Pepper, and is similar in shape and size to the better-known Sweet Bell, a mild-flavoured succulent Capiscum, which is highly esteemed by many epicures. The fruit, which is oblong in shape and blunt-ended, is of a bright golden yellow, thus forming a striking contrast with the red-fruited sorts. It is, we are assured, entirely free from the fiery flavour so common in this family, and is altogether a great culinary acquisition. The plant, moreover, is of ornamental character, and therefore useful for the autumn decoration of the conservatory or greenhouse.”

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3 Responses

  1. EmmettRedd says:

    My almost-82-year-old dad almost exclusively calls them mangoes here in SW Missouri, although I probably more often refer to them as peppers (probably from mom since dad was doing road construction while we were raising them in the garden).

    Grant, I agree they are good to eat. In 1995 when I was tornado chasing with two guys from New Mexico, I had packed one in my lunch (actually, a very robust vegetable to pack). I offered some to one of my fellow chasers and he reacted almost violently. He obviously did not share our tastes for them.

    Emmett

  2. In 1995 when I was tornado chasing with two guys from New Mexico

    That’s a pretty irresistible beginning to a sentence, Emmett! :-)

  3. EmmettRedd says:

    I should be able to find my electronic, tornado-chasing, journal; would you like a copy?

    Emmett

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