Hot peppers, are commonly known in the western world as hot peppers or chilies. Treasured by local Peruvians under the term “Ají”.
Aji's historical beginnings have drifted down from the Andean heights and sylvestral regions of Peru.
The use of Aji, has been well established since the Chavin cultural period of around 3000 BC. In ancient times, the Quechua term for Ají was "Antic" + "Uchu" = "Ají del Ande". (Andean Hot pepper).
Inca royalty appreciated the aji and its gastronomical variants and nuances as flavor enhancers, as well as healthy natural elements to cope with diseases and keep one's health in balance.
The discovery of America in 1492 and, subsequently.
The conquering of the Inca people by Spanish forces generated the export of the Ají from Peru to Spain in 1493, to Italy in 1535, Germany in 1542, followed by India, Hungary, Greece, Turkey, The Balkans and Portugal. From Portugal, it was introduced to Africa, Asia Minor, China and Japan.
For centuries, the Peruvian Ají species remained elusive, lost and buried in the darkness of history. The seeds lay dormant in burial site remains, awaiting the day it would be rediscovered in the Mochica Valley, at “La Libertad” province in northern Peru.
In 1946, American archaeologist, Junius Bird, was deeply interested in ancient Andean culture, and undertook research and excavations at Huaca Prieta, (Blackish Temple), an archaeological pre-Inca Center (2500 BC.) located in Chicama, 30 km north of Trujillo.
The region had been inhabited by an agricultural society, in the pre-ceramic era. Junius Bird's intensive archeological work produced a collection of interesting and enlightening items that included Lithics, textiles, ceramics, gourds, shells, faunal and botanical remains , including some well-preserved seeds. Those seeds later on turned to be of the lost hot pepper species.
Huaca Prieta, Chicama Valley, Peru.
Since 1946, Peruvian agriculture has made dedicated efforts to bring back the splendor of Ají, as well as bringing to life ancient recipes for different hot sauces made during the Chavin, Moche and Inca times.