Most of the posts here to date have been concerned with Old World vegetables. So it seems time for one of the New World edible Solanaceæ. Since they has been mentioned several times before, it will be chilies.
The earliest quote in the OED for chilli is, “1662 H. Stubbe Ind. Nectar [The Indian nectar, or a discourse concerning chocolata] ii. 10 Some Pepper called Chille…was put in.” Hot food fans may find something unsatisfying about the first association being hot – cocoa. But mainly, isn't 1662 awfully late?
Better start at the beginning. As every child knows,
In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue
Christopher Columbus (aka Cristóbal Colón) was looking for spices, in particular for pepper. English still calls what he found (which had been grown there for millenia) hot peppers, or chili peppers, or cayenne pepper, or just peppers. By far the best natural history of these food plants is Jean Andrews' Peppers: The Domesticated Capsicums. (This post will inevitably follow a similar track, in summary form, with a few diversions and a bit more attention to original texts.)
The word pepper is from Latin piper 'black pepper', whence French poivre, borrowed into various Germanic languages, such as German Pfeffer, Old English pipor, Old Norse piparr, itself from some Indo-Iranian source like Sanskrit पिप्पली pippalī 'long pepper', somehow related to पिप्पल pipala 'peepal (Ficus religiosa)'; it is also borrowed into Greek as πέπερι, whence Hungarian paprika. The same source gives Persian then Arabic فلفل filfil 'pepper', plural فلافل falāfel. Spanish pimienta, Portuguese pimenta and English pimento are from Latin pigmentum 'painted; spice', with these words sometimes also meaning 'allspice'. French has both poivre and piment, but still does not separate the space the same way botanists do.
A note on the quotes that follow: Orthography at this time was a free for all. I have not modernized the spelling or otherwise attempted to make it uniform. In cases where the source has a transcription, I have tended to follow it. I have expanded some shortcuts, like the mark for final m's, but left other contractions. I have kept the long s's, particularly in English, since they give an old fashioned feel. Typefaces and punctuation are also irregular by modern standards, and I have kept some of this without going overboard. To get Fraktur display, use this font. The end result is indeed not consistent, and while this may not be inevitable, it is intentional.
Columbus wrote a letter back to Spain on 15 Febrary 1493, written in Spanish and translated several times into Latin for various recipients. Scans of facsimile editions of these letters are fairly widespread; the Internet Archive has the Spanish (p. 19 of the PDF line 19) and a different Latin translation (p. 19 of the PDF, 5 lines up from the bottom). He said:
En estas islas donde ay montañas grandes, ahi tenia fuerça el frio este ynvierno ; mas ellos lo sufren por la costumbre con la ayuda de las viandas que comen con especias muchas y muy calientes en demasia.
In those islands, where there are lofty mountains, the cold was very keen there this winter; but they endure it by being accustomed thereto, and by the help of the meats which they eat with many and inordinately hot spices.
Ex montium acuminibus maximum quoque viget frigus, sed id quidem moderantur Indi tum loci consuetudine, tum rerum calidissimarum, quibus frequenter et luxuriose vescuntur, presidio.
Diego Alvarez Chanca accompanied Columbus on his second voyage and wrote back a letter in January 1494. So he gets credit for the first European written record of chilies that was read generally. The modernized(?) text is online. He says:
El mantenimiento suyo es pan hecho de raices de una yerba que es entre árbol é yerba, é el age, de que ya tengo dicho que es muy buen mantenimiento : tienen por especia, por lo adobar, una especia que se llama Agí con la cual comen también el pescado, como aves cuando las pueden haber, que hay infinitas de muchas maneras.
Their food consists of bread, made of the roots of a vegetable which is between a tree and a vegetable, and the age, which I have already described as being like the turnip, and very good food; they use, to season it, a spice called agi, which they also eat with fish, and such birds as they can catch of the many kinds which abound in the island. (tr. R. H. Major)
Columbus also kept a journal of his first voyage to show to Ferdinand and Isabella when he returned. None of the manuscript copies survive. But Bartolomé de Las Casas made an abstract, which was found by Martín Fernández de Navarrete in 1790 and published in 1825 in the first volume of a five volume collection. For some reason, the Internet Archive only has scans of the fourth and fifth volumes. But there is a digital edition of just the Diarios de Colón. The entry for 15 Jan 1493 says (p. 45 of the PDF):
También ay mucho axí, qu'es su pimienta, d'ella que vale más que pimienta y toda la gente no come sin ella, que la halla muy sana, puédense cargar cincuenta caravelas cada año en aquella Española.
Also there is much axí, which is their pepper, much stronger than [our] pepper, and everyone won't eat without it, for they find it very healthful; it would be possible to fill fifty caravels each year in Hispaniola.
Peter Martyr also wrote a letter concerning the first voyage, but it was not published until 1511 as the first of ten books known as a Decade. Like Columbus' letter, it only mentions spice generally. Three decades were assembled into De Orbe Novo, published in 1516. In 1523, he added a fifth decade. All eight decades were published in 1530. I have not been able to find this text online anywhere, including CLCLT. They have a copy of a facsimile in the BPL, which is where this comes from. (Since the book was acquired before 1974, it's one of the millions of items that aren't in any electronic catalog. One has to first ask someone to look up the call number and then copy that onto a call slip.) The expanded description of chilies from Decade 5, Book IX has:
De pipere inſulari continentique nunc parum. Nemora fructibus fulta piper gignentibus habent; dico piper quamquam non ſit piper, quia piperis habeat vim & aroma, nec pipere vilius granum illud, vocant ipſi haxi vltima acuta, papaueris ſupat altitudinem. Colligunt ex illis grana vti ex iunipo aut ſapina, non ita grandia penitus; duæ ſunt illius grani ſpens, quoque aiunt alii; ſeſquidigito humano longum eſt vnum, pipe mordentius & acutius, rotundum aliud non maius pipe. Sed hoc pellicula, carniculis, & animulis conſtat, quem tria calidam habent acrimoniam. Eſt tertium non acre aromaticum tamen, quo ſi vteremur, Caucaſeo piper non indigeremus, dulce appelant boniatum, acre nuncupant caribe, quia aſperum & forte, inde Caribes appellant Canibales, quia fortes illos & acres eſſe fateantur.
Something may be said about the pepper gathered in the islands and on the continent. I mentioned pepper as growing in the forests; but it is not pepper, though it has the same strength and the flavour, and is just as much esteemed. The natives call it axi. It grows taller than a poppy, and the grains are gathered from this bush just as from a juniper or pine, although they are not so large. There are two varieties of these grains, five in the row; one of which is half a finger in length, and its taste is sharper and more biting than that of pepper; the other is round and has no more taste than pepper. Its bark, skin, and kernel have a hot flavour; but not very sharp. The third grain does not sting the tongue but is aromatic. When it is used there is no need of Caucasian pepper. The sweet pepper is called boniatum and the hot pepper is called carribe, meaning sharp and strong; for this same reason the cannibals are called Caribs, because they are strong. (tr. MacNutt)
Las Casas assembled a Historia de las Indias from 1520 to 1561; this was his reason for abstracting Columbus' journal. Though the manuscript was regularly consulted, it was only finally published in 1875. It says, (p. 412; again, the Internet Archive has another facsimile):
Esto llevó por muestra á los Reyes, no supe si salió ser ruibarbo, ó si Vicente Yañez se engañó: Tuvo el Almirante por buena especería la pimienta desta isla que llaman axí, diciendo ser mejor que la pimienta y manegueta que se traia de Guinea ó de Alejandría (y, cierto, ella es buena, como despues se dirá), por la cual imaginaba que debia de haber otras especies della.
He took some to show to Their Majesties, I did not know whether it was rhubarb, or Vicente Yañez was mistaken: the Admiral had as a good spice the pepper of this island which is called aji, said to be better than pepper or manegueta which comes from Guinea or Alexandria (and, for sure, it was good, as will be said later), for which he imagined that there would have to be other kinds of it.
The Taíno word ají is still used in some American dialects of Spanish for some kinds of chilies. It is also evident that the Spanish were not confused about whether chilies were really pepper, as North and South America schoolchildren sometimes learn.
Bernardino de Sahagún compiled the twelve books of the Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España, in Nahuatl, in 1569, to which Spanish translations were then added; it is known as the Florentine Codex. There is an English translation, retaining the Nahuatl, with facsimiles of many of the pages. There is also a shorter version with only the Spanish. In Book 10, in describing various professions, in both typical and bad form, it says (Chap. 18, pp. 67-68 of the translation):
Chilnamacac, aço colitli, mjlchiuhquj, anoço tlanecujlo, qujnamaca in texochilli in chilpatlaoac, in chilacatl, in chilcoztli, in cujtlachilli, in tenpilchilli, in chichioachilli: qujnamaca, in achilli, in cõchilli, qujnamaca in pucheoac, in chiltecpin, in quauhchilli, in pitzaoac chilli, in temoltic, quinamaca in totocuitlatl chilli, in tzinquauhio, in tzincoionqui, quinamaca in chilchotl, in milchilli, in tonalchilli, in atzitzioa, in tochmilcaiutl, in oaxtepecaiutl, in michoacaiutl, in anaoacaiutl, in cuextecaiutl, in chichimecaiutl, nõqua quinamaca, in chilçolotl, in chilpaoaxtli, in chilmichi, in chilamilotl.
In tlaueliloc chilnamacac: in quinamaca chilli xôiac, tetelquic, chipaoac, chilpalaxtli, chilcuitlatl, tlacpatl, chiltzontli, quinamaca chilli in âtlalticpa, in acococ, in acamatetelquic, in oc quilitl, in aia chicaoa, in amâci, in chipini in tomoliui.
The chili seller [is] either … a worker of the fields, or a retailer. He sells mild red chilis, broad chilis, hot green chilis, yellow chilis, cuitlachilli, tenpilchilli, chichioachilli. He sells water chilis, conchilli; he sells smoked chilis, small chilis, tree chilis, thin chilis, those like beetles. He sells hot chilis, the early variety, the hollow-based kind. He sells green chilis, shart-pointed red chilis, a late variety, those from Atzitziuacan, Tochmilco, Huaxtepec, Michoacan, Anauac, the Huaxteca, the Chichimeca. Separately he sells strings of chilis, chilis cooked in an olla, fish chilis, white fish chilis.
The bad chili seller sells chili [which is] stinking, sharp to the taste, evil-smelling, spoiled; waste from the chilis, late-formed chilis, chaff from the chilis. He sells chilis from wet country, incapable of burning, insipid to the taste; unformed, not yet firm, immature; those which have formed as droplets, as buds.
The bibliographical history of Francisco Hernández' work on New World plants is so complicated that an entire page of a modern study, The Mexican Treasury, is taken up by a flow-chart of translations and publications. The original manuscript is in Latin. A revised version was given to Philip II and housed in the Escorial. A copy was made from that there, from which a Spanish translation was prepared and published in 1615. (Also online.) An Latin translation of the Spanish was prepared in 1555 and published in 1633. The revised manuscripts were destroyed in the fire of 1671. The original Latin manuscripts (lacking the revisions) were published in his Opera in 1790. So, from there, De Historia Plantarum Novae Hispaniae 3.cliii (p. 277):
Chilli seu Piper Mexicanum planta est ferens siliquas illas, quae ab Haitinis Agies, ab antiquis, ut quidam volunt, Siliquastra, et ab Hispanis Piper Indicum vocantur, quae licet jamdiu in nostrum orbem translata sit, ibique et in hortis et in vasis ficitilibus ornamenti et usus gratia seratur et habeatur in deliciis; tamen quoniam apud Indios multo plura eorum genera reperiuntur, et orexi excitandae, commendandisque ferculis in usu quotidiano est, adeo ut nullam sit reperire mensam sine Chilli, …He goes on to describe particular varieties:
Chili, or Mexican pepper, is the plant that produces those pods that the Haitians call ajies and that were known, according to some, by the ancients as peppers. The Spanish call them peppers of the Indies. It was taken a long time ago to Spain, where it is highly esteemed and where it is cultivated in gardens and tubs as an ornamental and as a useful plant. However, since there are many varieties among the Indians and it is used every day as an appetizer and as a condiment, scarcely a table is without it … (tr. Varey)
|1||quauhchilli||Chilli arboris 'tree chili'||Haitians: Chilli montanum 'chili of the woods'|
|a culicibus 'after the mosquito'|
passerinum stercus 'sparrow dung'
|.2||tlilchilli||Chilli nigrum 'black chili'|
|3||tonalchilli||a sole 'after the sun'||Haitians: Chilli album 'white chili'|
|4||chicoztli||a colore, quo tingit, croceo 'after the saffron color it gives'||Spaniards in Haiti: Agi crocus 'saffron chili'|
|5||tzinquauhyo||montanum 'of the woods'||Haitians: Corallum 'coral'|
|6||texochilli||Masseum a mollitudine 'dough, due to its softness'||cum Tlaolli seu placentis ex Indico Frumento paratis mandi|
eaten with tortillas, that is, flat cakes made from Indian grain
|7||milchilli||quod quo tempore Tlaolli et seritur et metitur 'because it is sown and reaped at the same time as corn'|
From these inventories of Nahuatl words for various chili varieties, chiltecpin is the only one that is I recognize as used in supermarket English to describe small peppers. These are also known as piquin peppers. The word piquin evidently comes from pequeño 'small'. But Dave DeWitt's page suggests that it might just come from chiltecpin, though it isn't clear to me how. These are a key ingredient in hot sauces like Cholula (the one with the recognizable wooden stopper) and even more so Terra Sol's Piquin. Perhaps they are the inspiration for “chili pepperinos” in The Three Stooges' Playing the Ponies, which make smoke come out of one's mouth, and which Curly confuses with peanuts and feeds to the washed up horse Thunderbolt, who then wins the big race trying to get some water.
José de Acosta's book Historia natural y moral de las Indias : en que se tratan las cosas notables del cielo, y elementos, metales, plantas, y animales dellas : y los ritos, y ceremonias, leyes, y gouierno, y guerras de los Indios, written in 1590 and quickly translated into many other languages, says (Vol. I Chap. XX / p.370 with minor differences in the two editions):
Del ají o pimienta de las IndiasA modern English translation is here, but it seems a bit large of a text to fairly quote from a book with such a recent copyright.
En las Indias occidentales no se ha topado especería propia, como pimienta, clavo, canela, nuez, jengibre. Aunque un hermano nuestro, que peregrinó por diversas y muchas partes, contaba que en unos desiertos de la isla de Jamaica había topado unos árboles que daban pimienta, pero no se sabe que lo sean ni hay contratación de ella. El jengibre se trajo de la India a la Española, y ha multiplicado de suerte que ya no saben qué hacerse de tanto jengibre, porque en la flota del año de ochenta y siete se trajeron veinte y dos mil cincuenta y tres quintales de ello a Sevilla.
Pero la natural especería que dió Dios a las Indias de occidente es la que en Castilla llaman pimienta de las Indias, y en Indias por vocablo general tomado de la primera tierra de islas que conquistaron nombran ají, y en lengua del Cuzco se dice uchu, y en la de Méjico, chili. Esta es cosa ya bien conocida; y así hay poco que tratar de ella; sólo es de saber que cerca de los antiguos indios fué muy preciada y la llevaban a las partes donde no se da por mercadería importante. No se da en tierras frías, como la sierra del Perú: dáse en valles calientes y de regadío. Hay ají de diversos colores: verde, colorado y amarillo; hay uno bravo, que llaman caribe, que pica y muerde reciamente; otro hay manso, y alguno dulce que se come a bocados. Alguno menudo hay que huele en la boca como almizcle, y es muy bueno. Lo que pica del ají es las venillas y pepita; lo demás no muerde: cómese verde y seco, y molido y entero, y en la olla y en guisados.
Es la principal salsa, y toda la especería de Indias: comido con moderación ayuda al estómago para la digestión; pero si es demasiado, tiene muy ruines efectos; porque de suyo es muy cálido, humoso y penetrativo. Por donde el mucho uso de él en mozos es perjudicial a la salud, mayormente del alma, porque provoca a sensualidad; y es cosa donosa que con ser esta experiencia tan notoria del fuego que tiene en sí, y que al entrar y al salir dicen todos que quema, con todo eso quieren algunos, y no pocos, defender que el ají no es cálido, sino fresco y bien templado. Yo digo que de la pimienta diré lo mismo, y no me traerán más experiencias de lo uno que de lo otro; así que es cosa de burla decir que no es cálido, y en mucho extremo.
Para templar el ají usan de sal, que le corrige mucho, porque son entre sí muy contrarios, y el uno al otro se enfrenan; usan también tomates, que son frescos y sanos, y es un género de granos gruesos jugosos, y hacen gustosa salsa, y por sí son buenos de comer. Hállase esta pimienta de Indias universalmente en todas ellas, en las islas, en Nueva España, en Perú y en todo lo demás descubierto; de modo que, como el maíz es el grano más general para el pan, así el ají es la especia más común para salsa y guisados.
In Mayan, the word is ich, written hieroglyphically as i-chi, which I believe means it looks like . I have not been able to find an actual text online with it in the usual places like Justin Kerr's photos.
In the Aztec writing system, chilli is drawn as a chili pepper. Sometimes that is what it means. For instance, in the Codex Mendoza, on Folio 52r, the two bundles on the right each contain 400 loads of dried chilies, represented by a feather for 400 (the system is vigesimal) and a chili pepper. Note also that the Spanish gloss (written by someone bilingual in Spanish and Nahuatl) says, “de axi seco,” using the Taíno loanword. (As this article points out, Antonio Vázquez in his 1628 book, Compendio y descripción de las Indias Occidentales, described a drink named agitipoche, which would seem to be a combination with tepache, from Nahuatl tepiatl 'a kind of corn drink', showing how much the Spanish spread words from various sources around.) Or a chili glyph can be used as part of a name. On Folio 37r, the places in the left column, second from the top and second from the bottom, are Chilapan and Chilacachapan, drawn as a chilli on a container of apan 'water'. For the latter name, there is something in the water, but evidently it is not clear what. This is still somewhat direct, since Chilapan means something like 'on the water of the chili'. But the system is sometimes more phonetic. For instance, on Folio 42r, on the right, is Chiltecpintlan, 'place of many little chilies', drawn with teeth at the bottom, because tlantli 'teeth' sounds like tlan 'place'.
Mixtec writing uses the same rebus principle. So there may well be names written with ya'a 'chili' as part. But I did not find any or anything like a comprehensive index. On the Codex Nuttall, Lady 3 Flint, who is turning into a feathered serpent, is shown (in the middle at the bottom) holding some chilies in her left hand.
The generic name for chilies is Capsicum, assigned by Linnaeus following Tournefort. The origin of the word is actually somewhat uncertain: it might be from Greek κάπτω in the sense of 'bite' or from Latin capsa 'box'. The OED says, “In either case the formation is etymologically irregular.” The earliest quotation it has is from 1664.
Knowing an earlier use does not even require turning on the computer; Capsicum is used in John Gerard's massive The herball or Generall historie of plantes, in the 1632 edition, for which there is a reasonably priced Dover reprint. This is actually a revision by Thomas Johnson of the original 1597 edition. Oddly enough, I cannot find a scan of either online publicly, only in EEBO. In any case, it says (p. 366; the text is substantially the same on p. 292 of the earlier edition):
Actuarius calleth it in Greeke καψικόν: in Latine, Capſicum: and it is thought to be that which Auicen nameth Zinziber caninum, or dogs Ginger: and Pliny, Siliquaſtrum, which is more like in taſte to pepper than is Panax, and it is therefore called Piperitis as he hath written in his 19. booke, 12. chap. Panax (ſaith he) hath the taſt of pepper and Siliquaſtrum, for which cauſe it is called Piperitis. The later Herbariſts do oftentimes call it Piper Indianum or Indicum, ſometimes Piper Calicuthium, or Piper Hiſpanicum: in Engliſh it is called Ginnie pepper, and Indian pepper: in the Germane tongue, Indianiſcher Pfeffer: in low Dutch, Breſelie Peper: in French, Poiure d'Inde, verie well knowne in the ſhops at Billingſgate by the name of Ginnie pepper, where it is vſually to be bought.
Gerard is mainly an English translation of Rembert Dodoens's 1554 herbal, Crüÿdeboeck. This has two (separate!) full-text digitization efforts, German and Dutch. For naming, it says (Deel 5 capitel 65, bladzijde 677-679):
Dit vremt cruyt wordt ghenaempt van Actuarius in Griecx Capſicon. In Latijn Capſicum/ van Avicenna Zingiber caninum/ van Plinius als ſommighe meynen Siliquaſtrum ende Piperitis/ nu ter tijt Piper Indianum, Piper Calecuthium & Piper Hiſpanum. In Hoochduytſch Indianiſcher pfeffer/ Chalechutiſcher pfeffer. In Neerduytſch Peper van Indien/ ende Breſilie Peper. In Franchois Guinee ou Poyure d’Inde
Before that was Leonhard Fuchs' work of 1542, De historia stirpium commentarii insignes. I cannot find a full-text version, but there are scanned images from the 1549 edition here at the BNF and the 1542 one here but without deep links or downloading. There is also a nicely colored peppers woodcut as part of this exhibition. He does not use Capsicum, but rather Siliquastrum. In his unpublished revisions, known as the Vienna Codex, Fuchs apparently changed to Capsicon. (This research says that he evidently got this from Actuarius, which makes sense, since others claim him as the source. It cites Andrews for this, but I don't think she actually says that: just that it was changed in the revisions and elsewhere that some claimed that source.) What he does say in published form is (p. 692 of the 1549 edition, or jump to spread 382 of the 1542 one):
Siliquastrum conuenientiſsimo nomine à Plinio lib.xx.cap.xvij. dicta eſt herba hæc, à ſiliquis nimirum magnis & oblongis quas producit. Eadem etiam ab eodem Piperitis, quod ſemen eius guſtatum piperis ſaporem & acrimoniam præ ſe ferat, nominatur. Alia tamen eſt ab ea quam uulgò Piperitim appellant, ut ſuprà etiam monuimus. Sunt qui piper Hiſpanum, alij piper Indianum, nonnulli etiam piper ex Chalechut uocant. Auicenna uidetur appellare Zinziber caninum. Germanicè dici poteſt Chalechutiſcher oder Indianiſcher Pfeffer. [Gallicè Guinee.]
This plant is very conveniently named Siliquastrum by Pliny bk. 20 chap. 17, no doubt as it produces large and long pods. The same is named Piperitis by the same, because its seed tastes sharp like pepper. It is also commonly called Piperitim, as we also instructed above. These are the Spanish pepper, or the Indian pepper, some also call it pepper from Calcutta. Avicenna seems to call it dog-ginger. In German, Chalechutischer oder Indianischer Pfeffer. In French, Guinée.
Even before Gerard's first edition was Walter Baley [Bayley]'s small book from 1588, A Short Diſcourſe of the three kindes of Peppers in common vſe, and certaine ſpecial medicines made of the ſame, tending to the preſeruation of health., which evidently uses the same Continental sources. It says (p. B1):
I did neuer ſee the plant, but the cods are common in the Apothecaries ſhops. It is ſuppoſed of many, that the olde Greeke authors haue not written any thing of this plant, but Actuarius ſeemeth to ſpeake of this kinde of pepper, vnder the name of Capſicum.
I probably missed some online versions of these herbals. Leave a comment if you know of any. I wish there were something like OAIster for older scanned and full-text documents. That is, if Google Books doesn't just catch up to everything first.
Note how Gerard and others confuse Capsiums with Guinea Pepper, which is properly Grains of Paradise.
Cayenne pepper is ostensibly named after the city of Cayenne, but the OED says that quiýnha is the Tupi word for it. Another early folk etymology is Chian pepper like Chian wine from Χίος. The earliest quotation given by the OED is from 1756. Google Books says that cayenne pepper occurs in The London Magazine of 1735, but won't preview it. How can there be copyright issues with something that was published 275 years ago?
THE Indian Nectar, OR A DISCOURSE CONCERNING CHOCOLATA: WHEREINIt make clear reference to its Spanish sources (Stubbe gets a box on Varey's chart) in a slightly longer version of the same passage as was quoted briefly at the start of this post (p. 10):
The Nature of the Cacao-nut, and the other Ingredients of that Compoſition, is examined, and ſtated according to the Judgment and Experience of the Indians, and Spaniſh Writers, who lived in the Indies, and others; with ſundry additional Obſervations made in England: The ways of compounding and preparing Chocolata are enquired into; its Effects, as to its alimental and Venereal quality, as well as Medicinal (eſpecially in Hypochondriacal Melancholy) are fully debated. Together with a Spagyrical Analyſis of the Cacao-nut, performed by that excellent Chymiſt, Monſieur le Febure, Chymiſt to His Majeſty.
By Henry Stubbe formerly of Ch. Ch. in Oxon. Phyſician for His Majeſty, and the Right Honourable Thomas Lord Windſor in the Iſland of Jamaica in the Weſt-Indies.
Thomas Gage, Survey of the West-Indies. chap. 15.
Here [in a certain part of Guaxaca] grow many Trees of Cacao, and Achiote, whereof is made the Chocolatte, and is a Commodity of much trading in thoſe parts, though our Engliſh and Hollanders make little uſe of it, when they take a prize at Sea, as not knowing the ſecret virtue and quality of it for the good of the Stomach.
— Videant, intabeſcántque relictâ.
London, Printed by J. C. for Andrew Crook at the Sign of the Green Dragon in St. Paul's Church-yard. 1662.
It is then clear, that the Indian ordinary Chocolata was made of the Cacao nut, and meal of Indian wheat, and water, and Pocholt, and now and then ſome Pepper called Chille, which was put in, more, or leſs, according to the neceſſity of the Patient's ſtomach, or other circumſtances: So that they made divers ſorts of it, ſome hot, ſome cold, ſome temperate, and put therein much of that Chili, or Chille. So ſaith Acoſta in the place above-mentioned. And I obſerve, that Hernandez, …
Now, in fact, there was an English translation of Acosta by Edward Grimeston in 1604, titled The naturall and morall historie of the East and West Indies Intreating of the remarkable things of heaven, of the elements, mettalls, plants and beasts which are proper to that country: together with the manners, ceremonies, lawes, governments, and warres of the Indians. Written in Spanish by the R.F. Ioseph Acosta, and translated into English by E.G., reprinted in facsimile by The Hakluyt Society in 1880; it says (p. 265):
Of Axi or Indian Pepper. Chap. 20.
They have not found at the Weſt Indies any kinde of Spices, proper or peculiar to them, as pepper, cloves, cinamon, nutmegges or ginger, although one of our company, who had travelled much, and in diverſe partes, tolde vs, that in the deſarts of the Iland of Iamaique he had found trees where pepper grewe. But they are not yet aſſured thereof, neither is there anie trade of theſe ſpices at the Indies,. The ginger was carried from the Indies to Hiſpaniola, and it hath multiplied ſo, as at this day they know not what to do with the great aboundaunce they have. In the fleete the yeare 1587. they brought 22053. quintalls of ginger to Seville: but the naturall ſpice that God hath given to the weaſt Indies, is that we call in Caſtill, Indian pepper, and in India, Axi, as a generall worde taken from the firſt land of the Ilands, which they conquered. In the language of Cuſco, it is called Vchu, and in that of Mexico, Chili. This plant is well knowne, and therefore I will ſpeake alittle, onely wee muſt vnderſtand, that in olde time it was much eſteemd amongſt the Indians, which they carried into places where it grew not, as a marchandiſe of conſequence. It growes not vpon cold grounds, as on the Sierre of Peru, but in hote valleis, where it is often watered. There is of this Axi of diverſe colours, ſome is greene, ſome red, ſome yellow, and ſome of a burning color, which they call Caribe, the which is extreamely ſharpe and biting; there is an other ſort not ſo ſharpe, but is ſo ſweete, as they may eate it alone as any other fruit. There is ſome of it very ſmall and pleaſing in the mouth, almoſt like to the ſmell of muſke, and is very good. That which is ſharpe and biting in this Axi, be the veines and the graine onely; the reſt is not: for that they eate it greene and dry, whole and beaten, in the pot, and in ſawces, being the chiefe ſawce, and all the ſpice they have at the Indies. When this Axi is taken moderately, it helps and comforts the ſtomacke for digeſtion: but if they take too much, it hath bad effects, for of it ſelfe it is very hote, fuming, and pierceth greatly, ſo as the vſe thereof is preiudiciall to the health of yong folkes, chiefely to the ſoule, for that it provokes to luſt. It is ſtrange, that although the fire and heate of it be well knowne by experience, and that every man ſaies, it burnes in the mouth and the ſtomacke; yet ſome, yea many holde, that the Indian pepper is not hote, but colde, and well tempered. But I might ſay to them, the like ſhould be of pepper; though they brought me as many experiences as they woulde of the one and the other: yet is it a very mockery to ſay it is not hote, ſeeing it is in the higheſt degree. They vſe ſalt to temper this Axi, having great ſorce to correct it, and ſo they moderate one with the other by the contrarietie that is in them. They vſe alſo Tomates, which are colde and very wholeſome. It is a kinde of graine great and full of iuyce, the which gives a good taſte to ſawce, and they are good to eate. They have generally throughout the Indies of this Indian pepper, at the Ilands, new Spaine, Peru, and all the reſt that is diſcovered. And as mays is the generall graine for bread, ſo Axi is the moſt common ſpice for ſawces.
… whether all England could afford ſuch a dainty as a diſh of Frixoles (which is the pooreſt Indians daily food there, being black and dry Turkey or French beanes boyled with a little biting Chille or Indian pepper with garlicke, till the broath become as black as any Inke) …
It often happens that once one knows the way, a shortcut is evident. So here, the Hobson-Jobson entry for chilly has:
[1604. — “Indian pepper. … In the language of Cusco, it is called Vchu, and in that of Mexico, chili.” — Grimston, tr. D'Acosta, H. W. Indies, I. Bk. iv. 239 (Stanf. Dict.)]A bit cryptic but recognizably the same earliest English quotation.