OK, so I’ve tried to get to the bottom of why they call red bell peppers “capsicum” in Australia.  Green, yellow and orange (and if I ever find them, I assume also purple tequilla peppers) bell peppers are just “green peppers” or “yellow peppers”.   

Apparently, capsicum is a genus of flowering plants, the fruit of which have varying names and levels of spiciness and include red peppers, but also a host of hot peppers (chili, habanero, cayenne, paprika), sweet peppers (banana peppers and pepperoncini) and bell peppers (green, and presumably their yellow and orange kin).  World-wide, there exists a host of synonyms for the same.   Most bizarre, they originated in the Americas, so one would think that they would be called what us Americans call them.  No sir’ee, don’t even try it… no one will have a clue what you’re talking about, and you’ll never see it referred to that way on a menu or in the market. 

C’est la vie, I guess, when in Rome….

Other random learnings from Wikipedia’s capsicum entry… I’ve always de-pithed bell peppers before eating them.  That is, cut around the seed core and cut away the white tissue connecting the outer fruit to the seed core and discarded it before eating.  Apparently, this “placental tissue” is where, particularly in the hot varieties of capsicum, the peppers pack their heat.  “Contrary to popular belief, the seeds themselves do not produce any capsaicin, although the highest concentration of capsaicin [a  chemical that can produce a strong burning sensation in the mouth] can be found in the white pith around the seeds.”

I’ve minded this lesson well when handling or preparing hot peppers, but maybe it’s subconsciously drifted over to my treatment of mild bell peppers as well.  (that, and of course, that the white pith really doesn’t taste that good…) 

Learning is knowledge, kids.  Behold the awesome power of Wikipedia.