• The Fiery Foods and Barbecue Supersite
  • Recipe of the Day
  • All About Chiles
  • BBQ, Grilling & Smoking
  • Burn Blog
  • Videos
  • PodCast
  • Fiery Foods & BBQ Show
  • Scovie Awards
 Login / Logout






Pepper Profile: Piquín PDF Print E-mail

SuperSite Recommendations

Chile Pepper Bedding Plants... over 500 varieties from Cross Country Nurseries, shipping April to early June. Fresh pods ship September and early October. Go here

Chile Pepper Seeds... from all over the world from the Chile Pepper Institute. Go here



Piquin Chile

The Plant

Agriculture

Legend and Lore

Culinary Usage

Introduction

The piquín is a pod type of the annuum species. The word "piquín," also spelled "pequin," is probably derived from the Spanish word "pequeño," meaning small, an obvious allusion to the size of the fruits. Variations on this form place the words "chile" or "chili" before or in combination with both "pequin" and "tepin" forms. The wild form of the piquín type is variously called chiltepin or chilipiquín and it is possible that the word "chilipequin" is derived from the Náhuatl (Aztec) word "chiltecpin" rather than from "pequeño."

The piquíns are also known by common names such as "bird pepper" and "chile mosquito." Most are unnamed varieties, both wild and domesticated, varying in pod size and shape from BBs to de Arbol-like fruits. Generally speaking, the wild varieties (spherical "tepins") are called chiltepins and the domesticated varieties (oblong "piquíns") are called piquíns or pequins, but in Texas the wild varieties are called chilipiquíns.


The Plant

piquíns vary greatly, usually having an intermediate number of stems and an erect habit. In the wild, piquíns can grow 6 feet high or more, and in the greenhouse they have grown 15 feet high in one season. However, some varieties have a prostrate habit, spreading across the ground like a ground cover. The leaves are medium green and are lanceolate or ovate, measuring about 3 ½ inches long by 1 ½ inches wide. The flower corollas are white with no spots. The pods are borne erect, are round or oblong, and measure between ¼ and ½ inch long and wide. Domesticated varieties usually have elongate, pointed pods, usually borne erect but occasionally pendant, sometimes measuring up to 2 inches long. piquíns are extremely hot, measuring between 50,000 and 100,000 Scoville Units. In Mexico, the heat of the Chiltepin is called arrebatado ("rapid" or "violent"), which implies that although the heat is great, it diminishes quickly.

Top of Page


Agriculture

Piquíns were part of the prehistoric migration of Capsicum annuum from a nuclear area in southern Brazil or Boliva north to Central America and Mexico. Ethnobotanists believe that birds were responsible for the spread of most wild chiles--and indeed, the chiltepin is called the "bird pepper." Attempts at domestication of the wild plants have led to the development of the commercial chile piquín, which grows under cultivation in Mexico and Texas (some wild forms have escaped). A cultivated form of the chiltepin has been grown successfully in Sonora and in the Mesilla Valley of New Mexico, where they are planted as annuals. In all cases of domestication, the cultivated forms tend to develop fruits larger than the wild varieties; botanists are not certain whether this trait is the result of better cultural techniques or the natural tendency for humans to pick the largest fruits, which contain next years' seed.

In Mexico, a number of different varieties of piquíns grow wild in the mountains along both coasts: from Sonora to Chiapas on the Pacific and Tamaulipas to Yucatán on the Gulf. They are collected and sold as fresh green, dried red, and in salsas, but the amount of total production is unknown. Some Mexican food companies bottled the chiltepins en escabeche and sell them in supermarkets. In the United States, retail prices for wild chiltepins reached $48 per pound in 1988.

In the U.S., about a thousand acres of "small chili" are cultivated, mostly in Texas and New Mexico. Many of these chiles are packaged and labeled as piquín regardless of the shape of their pods--from those resembling red peppercorns to those which look like small New Mexican varieties--and there is no way to tell which are cultivated and which are collected in the wild.

piquíns do well in the home garden and are particularly suited to being grown in containers as perennials. Garden writer Paul Bessey of the Arizona Daily Star reports that rosy-headed house finches regularly decimate his ripening chiltepins, so some netting protection from birds may be necessary when growing this variety. The growing period is at least 90 days, and the plant can produce between 50 and 100 pods, depending on its size and growing period.

Top of Page


Legend and Lore

The Tarahumara Indians of the Sonoran Desert in Mexico believe that chiltepíns were the greatest protection against the evils of sorcery. One of their proverbs holds that "The man who does not eat chile is immediately suspected of being a sorcerer." The Papago Indians of Arizona maintain that the chiltepin "has been here since the creation of the earth."

Medical applications of chiltepins are numerous. In Mexico they are habitually used for the relief of acid indigestion; they are crushed, mixed with garlic, oregano, and warm water. Other maladies reputedly treated by chiltepins include sore throats, dysentery, rheumatism, and tumors.

Popular folklore holds that Texans love chile piquíns so much they eat them right off the bush. In fact, their infatuation is so great that piquín-heads rarely travel far from home without an emergency ration of the tiny pods, either whole or crushed, in a silver snuffbox or pillbox. Texans also reputedly use the chile piquín in place of soap to punish children for using "cuss words."

Top of Page


Culinary Usage

In 1794, Padre Ignatz Pfefferkorn, an early observer of Sonoran culinary customs, described how chiltepíns were primarily used, and of course piquíns can substituted: "It is placed unpulverized on the table in a salt cellar, and each fancier takes as much of it as he believes he can eat. He pulverizes it with his fingers and mixes it with his food. The chiltepín is still the best spice for soup, boiled peas, lentils, beans, and the like...." Today the red dried chiltepín is used precisely the same way--crushed into soups, stews, and bean dishes. The green fruit is chopped and used in salsas and bottled en escabeche.

Top of Page


Comments (0)

Subscribe to this comment's feed

Write comment

smaller | bigger
security image
Write the displayed characters

busy
 

Copyright© 1997-2014, Sunbelt Shows, Inc.
No portion of this site may be reproduced in any medium
without the written permission of the copyright holder.

india generic cialis, levitra cheapest