What Are Chiltepín Chiles and How Do I Cook With Them?

Spicing meals can really feel like strolling a superb line between scrumptious and harmful. To warmth fanatics, an additional kick is strictly what a dish requires, whether or not it’s a splash of Tabasco or sprinkling of crimson pepper flakes—or grind of chiltepín. This ingredient is singular in taste, extremely sizzling, and unassuming in measurement. Let’s get to realize it.

What is chiltepín?

Whereas it won’t appear like a chile pepper, that’s precisely what chiltepín is. These small, berry-like chiles are taxonomically known as Chiltepín Capsicum annuum var. Glabriusculum, making them a detailed relative to different Capsicum annuum species like bell peppers and jalapeños. In regards to the measurement of peppercorns, chiltepíns are first inexperienced earlier than turning shiny crimson as they mature within the fall. As soon as harvested, they’re sometimes sun-dried earlier than packaging.

“Chiltepín is commonly referred to as the ‘mom of all chiles,’ and is believed to be the place all chiles hint their genetic origins,” says Janos Wilder, a James Beard Award–profitable chef and cookbook writer primarily based in Tucson, Arizona. First domesticated in central Mexico 6,000 to 7,000 years in the past, the phrase chiltepín comes from the Nahuatl phrases chilli and tepin, straight translating to “small pepper.”

Not like the extra generally used contemporary and dried chiles on the retailer, chiltepín offers the comfort of a condiment like sizzling sauce or chile flakes. Carrying a small mill of chiltepíns with you may lend to a simple, fast hit of spice on the go. These tiny peppers additionally deliver numerous warmth that dissipates shortly, not like different chiles or sizzling sauces with a lingering burn.

Solar-dried chiltepíns are noticeably smoky, carrying a definite earthiness that rounds out their highly effective kick. The flavour is daring sufficient to make an announcement in a spread of dishes. Inexperienced, unripened chiltepíns are normally pickled, bringing a vegetal high quality with subdued warmth (plus brininess from the vinegar).

The place are chiltepíns discovered right now?

These days, chiltepíns develop wildly all through northern Mexico and the American Southwest, with massive portions showing in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. In truth, the Texas State Legislature declared this ingredient the state’s official native pepper in 1997.

In Mexico, the chiltepín performs a major function within the cuisines of Sonora and Sinaloa. Having been harvested for 10,000 years by Indigenous communities, chiltepín can also be recognized for its medicinal properties utilized in conventional ceremonies and cures. The Mayo, Pima Bajo, and Tarahumara would use the chiles and their leaves to deal with complications, abdomen aches, and rheumatism, whereas the Yaqui and Ópata peoples partake in conventional therapeutic rituals that make the most of dried chiltepíns.

At the moment in the USA, these chiles are a protected species in lots of nationwide parks, principally scattered across the American Southwest. “[In this region] it’s a heritage meals and a protected meals in locations just like the Coronado Nationwide Forest, Organ Pipe Cactus Nationwide Monument, and Large Bend Nationwide Park,” Wilder says.

In Sonora, the chiltepín harvest between September and October is a significant occasion with household gatherings and some households briefly migrating to harvesting camps to partake within the season.

How do you prepare dinner with chiltepíns?

I grew up in Arizona and my Sonoran mom saved chiltepíns within the depths of our spice cupboard for each time we wanted large warmth in a pinch. However not like with different chiles, equivalent to jalapeños or serranos, my sister and I have been raised to worry the chiltepín for being covertly harmful.

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