The Cascabel chilli pepper also known as the ‘rattle chilli’ is a hidden gem from Mexico and is a Mirasol cultivar of the generica Capiscum genus.
The pepper’s colloquial name, ‘cascabel’ meaning ‘little bell’ while also being known as the ‘rattle’ chilli, comes from the loose seeds that often rattle when moved around. The chilli is very common in Mexico and is enjoyed for its mild spice.
The Cascabel chilli is smooth and plum as well as very small in stature. It is around 2-3inches in length and is quite round. Like most chillies they mature from green to red, and this specific variety is enjoyed when fully matured and red.
The small seeds inside the chilli are often loose, causing them to rattle when shaken and make a noise.
As a result they are often used as temporary baby rattles. When dried, they retain a lot of their round shape but gain a deep reddy brown color as a result of drying.
The chilli is widely used in culinary applications for its flavor that it can impart. It has an earthy and smoky flavor with a nuttiness that is sort of similar to a calabrian chilli.
As this chilli is commonly dried, its smoky flavors are imparted this way rather than by using it fresh. It’s not commonly used in its fresh form as the skin can be quite tough. The nuttiness is rather unique for a chilli pepper.
How Spicy Is It?
The Cascabel pepper has a mild to moderate heat depending on your palette. As its natural gorwin habitat is Mexico it’s going to be fairly hot thanks to the dry and hot growing conditions.
Commonly, it ranges from around 100 to 300 scoville units which can be a little hotter than the common Jalapenos. Like other chillies its capsaicin levels are determined by the environment within which it is grown.
The Cascabel pepper is a Mexican pepper that is indigenous to the country. Luckily for most Ameicans, its natural environment is very similar to other Southern States such as New Mexico or Arizona where it is widely grown.
Interestingly, both dried and fresh forms of the Cascabel pepper are referred to synonymously in Mexico, this is rare as oftentimes the dried and fresh forms of a single chilli can come with different names.
As the Cascabel pepper has some very tough skin it is very commonly dried. In its fresh form the pepper should have its skin taken off or it should be tenderised.
When dried it’s commonly used in many broths and stews for its smokey and uniquely nutty flavor as well as its spice.
Moreover, once dried it’s one of the more common chillies used in commercially sold chilli flake blends, the loose seeds inside make it practical for this purpose.
Moreover, its delicate flavor can subtly hide behind more prominent chilli flavors and enhance as well as compliment them. What’s more, the peppers are perfect for turning into chilli pastes for the same reasons.
Growing Cascabel Peppers
In terms of chilli peppers, the Cascabel variety is relatively low maintenance and is pretty easy to grow most times.
Cascabel peppers are grown in Mexico primarily, so if you are growing them outside of its natural habitat you want to make sure you can emulate a dry and hot environment.
Like most peppers they love heat and sun, one way to expedite this is to prune the high leaves. Commonly the cascabel pepper plant will grow to around 1.5 feet and can grow a lot of chilli peppers per plant.
When planting make sure your soil is well watered and nutritious, plant the peppers in a spot where they will get at least 8 hours of sun but ideally more. Place a fertilizer or manure on top of the soil to increase growth rates.
Don’t over water as this can cause diseases as well as pot rot, but also don’t underwater the plants.
Let the soil go completely dry before harvesting the peppers once they are red and tender, the drier they get before harvesting will increase the capsaicin levels and thus increase the spiciness of the pepper.