The chiltepin pepper is a pepper that is native to the United States and Mexico. It appears very small but don’t let its size fool you, it’s a very spicy chili pepper that is not to be taken lightly!
It has a long standing history tied to native America and the Native American culture, which surprises a lot of people when they learn this.
Basics Of The Chiltepin Pepper
Native to America, they are a very small chili pepper that many call the bird’s eye pepper – in fact, it sizes around ¼ of an inch wide, which means it can fit on most coins! Other names it can be called is the bird pepper, chiltepe, the chile tepin or tepin.
How Hot Is The Chiltepin Pepper?
This pepper ranges on the Scoville Heat Unit scale (the SHU) from 50,000 to 100,000 – which when we compare that to a jalapeno pepper, which most people have experienced, it is between 6 and 40 times hotter!
If you are thinking of comparing it with another pepper, they are similar to that of a Thai pepper rather than a Caribbean pepper.
In Mexico, locals often refer to the pepper as arrebatado, which translates as violent or rapid.
This is discussing its effects that the pepper has on the tongue – the spice lasts a long time and continues to stay with you, unlike a lot of other peppers – for example, the ghost pepper where the intensity grows over time.
What Is The History Of The Chiltepin Pepper?
Due to its strong ties with the Native American community, it was often like a treasure to them. The Native Americans used many naturally sourced things in their food and medicine, and this pepper was no exception.
Even with the Native American community today, this pepper is revered almost the same as it was centuries ago.
Many Native American communities may hold rituals where groups and families will come together as one and find the pepper for harvesting. In fact, during its peak time – you can find the pepper in many areas, making it easy to source.
In many areas of North America, the pepper has protected status, like in the Coronado National Forest or The Organpipe Cactus National Monument.
How Should You Eat A Chiltepin Pepper?
As it is a hot pepper, in fact it has been given status after a study to be a super hot pepper, so you should be careful handling it without protective gloves.
The pepper is often dried out and then crushed up to be used in condiments or spices and seasonings. Some people prefer to use the pepper in stews or soups, particularly in a bean dish. The flavor of the pepper has been described as more of a smoky experience.
Sun drying the pepper is a preferable way to prepare the pepper before consumption, as it will dehydrate it.
The green fruit of the pepper is often used in other things such as salsas or chutneys as it has a nice spice to the other ingredients used, such as mint yogurt.
You may even decide to make a nice sauce out of the pepper. Starting with the obvious chili sauce, you could also make a spicy ketchup or mix it with a BBQ sauce to give your meats the extra edge!
If you’re trying to make a hot sauce, you might struggle. Not only due to their small size, the spice isn’t quite worthy of having a hot sauce unless you use quite a few of them. Having said that, they are used in many additional sauces and other foods with the Sonorans.
How Exactly Do You Dry Out A Chiltepin Pepper?
Preferably you’ll be sun drying them, but it’s not always that simple to do.
If you can’t sun dry the pepper, you could try using a dehydrator – remember to clean and rinse them first and then place them on top of dehydrating sheets, keeping the temperature of a static 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another method is, if you have an oven that allows you to set a temperature to that low – you can place them in a round bowl and dry them that way. Just don’t leave them in too long!
Where Do I Get Chiltepin Peppers From?
Aside from their natural growth in the United States and Mexico where you could travel and harvest them to your heart’s content – you can try and purchase them online or in local stores that have seeds and peppers.
If you’re looking online, you will have the choice to purchase the peppers, the plants or the seeds. If you’re buying the plants or the peppers – ensure you’re within a reasonable distance so they do not deteriorate within their travels.
Seeds are a better choice to look for, as they are smaller – which benefits both the price of posting but also the likelihood of damage or deterioration.
What’s The Difference Between This Bird’s Eye And The Other Bird’s Eye Chili Pepper?
You may have noticed that the chiltepin pepper is sometimes called the bird’s eye pepper due to its size, but you may also believe you’ve seen another pepper called this – and you’d be right.
The bird’s eye chili pepper originates from Thailand and has many similarities to the chiltepin chili pepper including its size and heat.
The other bird’s eye chili pepper is a staple in Thai culture and cuisine, and is often used in soups or noodle dishes.
The two are often confused due to their similarities, but they can be distinguished by using the name chiltepin or recognizing its origin in North America.
Whichever way you want to enjoy this pepper – don’t underestimate its spice!