Living in Arizona, I get to grow many things I never dreamed of growing anywhere else I’ve lived. Some of them I didn’t even know existed, like Chile Pequins [pu kee uns] and Chiltepins [chil te pins]. These tiny indigenous peppers grow on big bushes that can live for several years in the right spot. I bought my Chile Pequin at a Master Gardener plant sale 4 years ago, and while I thought it had died the first winter, the following summer it grew three feet. It has suffered a few frosts, but today it is four feet tall and wide with hundreds of peppers on it that seem to be continually available. This is a picture of it between the loquat and guava on the raised bed.
Here are some interesting facts from the website pequin.us
Pequin means “small” or “tiny”
Pequin are one of the hottest chiles
Chile pequin rank 40,000 to 60,000 Scoville units
Also known as bird chiles or mosquito chiles
Complex flavor to go with the intense heat
Most commonly found dried
Pequin chiles are native to Mexico
The other pepper I’ve recently begun growing is its close relative, the Chiltepin, which is even smaller and hotter. I bought a packet of dried Chiltepins from the spice section of the grocery store and sowed the seeds last year. They came right up and have grown to about two feet. The chiltepins are like more ball-shaped than the Pequins.
Here are some facts from the website, Chiltepins.us.
Thought to be one of the oldest chile peppers
Chiltepins grow wild from Peru to the soutwestern US
The official State Native Pepper of Texas
Usually sun dried
Bright red or green when ripe
Small round fruit about the size of peppercorns
Bushes grow 2-4 feet tall
50,000 to 100,000 Scoville units ( 8-10 on a scale of 10 )
Used as a remedy for acid-indigestion
AKA: Tepin, Flea Chiles, Bird Peppers
Size comparison of Chiltepins (left) and Chile Pequin (right)
Picking chile Pequins and Chiltepins is more like picking berries than anything else. The stem remains on the plant while the peppers just pop off. It is actually very satisfying to pick them. Just don’t touch your eyes, and make sure to wash your hands afterward. It’s probably not a job for young children.
My number one way to use the peppers is to dry and grind them to a powder. Their fresh, spicy flavor really shines when sprinkled on anything.
Here in Arizona it only takes a couple of days to dry outside. I just leave them in a pan or bowl in the sun. You can tell they are dry when they sound like rattles when you shake them or they crumble when squeezed.
I like to use a coffee grinder that is dedicated to grinding dehydrated foods.
Just fill it up and grind, shaking it a bit until it is as finely ground as you like. WARNING! Don’t keep opening it because the dust is very potent. In fact, let it settle a few seconds before you do open it. I even prefer to do this whole process outside.
We use a lot of this ground pepper so I keep it in jars both ground and whole. I think that keeping them whole helps retain the flavor longer.
Two recipes I’m looking forward to trying with these is making this Red Hot Sauce from Emeril Lagasse and this fermented sauce from Nourished Kitchen.
Let me know if you make them and we can compare notes.