The chiltepin is the official state native pepper. The Texas legislature named the jalapeño official state pepper in 1995, so the chiltepin was distinguished as the official state “native” pepper in 1997. The chiltepin (sometimes called the “mother of all peppers”) grows wild from west Texas to southern Arizona.
Chiltepin is a wild chile pepper that grows in Mexico and the southwestern United States. It is sometimes called the “mother of all peppers,” because it is thought to be the oldest species in the Capsicum genus.
The chiles are extremely hot, rating 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville units, but the heat quickly dissipates.
The Wild Chile Botanical Area in the Coronado National Forest near Tucson, Arizona has the largest population of chiltepin chile peppers north of Mexico. It is the state native pepper of Texas.
It is also known as Chiltecpin or simply Tepin, from the Nahuatl Mexican word meaning “flea”.
The piquin is a pod type of the annuum species. The word “piquin,” 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 word “Chiltepin” is believed to be derived from the Aztec language (Nahuatl) combination word “chilli” + “tecpintl,” meaning “flea chile,” an allusion to its sharp bite. That word was altered to “chiltecpin,” then to the Spanish “chiltepín,” and finally Anglicized to “chilipiquin,” as the plant is known in Texas.
The piquins 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 “piquins”) are called piquins or pequins, but in Texas the wild varieties are called chilipiquins. They categorize as an edible fruits and nuts, and vines and climbers .
Slow Food USA
Capsicum annuum var. aviculare
As the only wild native chile to the US, the Chiltepin is sometimes called the “mother of all peppers.” Known by many names—Chiltepin, Chile Tepin, Chile del Monte, Chillipiquin, a’al kokoli (O’odham), Chiltepictl (Nahuatl), Amash (Mayan)—the Chiltepin is widely used throughout the southwestern region of the US. This pepper grows naturally in canyons from West Texas through southern Arizona.
The Chiltepin has a long history in the US/Mexico borderlands, and has been traditionally used as a food, medicine, and vermifuge and mythic icon. There is considerable folklore associated with these plants. Historically, no kitchen table of Sonorans, Opatas, O’odham or Yaqui rural homes would be without a bottle of dried chiltepines. The wild harvest is a seasonal ritual in many rural communities to this day, where families make chile-harvesting camps in the mountains during the heat of September and early October in order to harvest the wild peppers.
The Chiltepine is a very small chile in size with an extremely pungent flavor. It is rated very hot—8-9 on pungency scales—and has a quite distinctive smoky bite. The Chiltepin is eaten sun-dried, added to cheese and ice creams, fermented into sauces, and pickled with wild oregano, garlic, and salt as a tabletop condiment. The green or dried red fruit are often mixed with range fed carne machaca from cattle or deer to preserve the meat, or wild greens and onions as a typical Sonoran dish.
Jalapeno Cafe Chiltepin Page
The word “Chiltepin” is believed to be derived from the Aztec language (Nahuatl) combination word “chilli” + “tecpintl,” meaning “flea chile,” an allusion to its sharp bite.
That word was altered to “chiltecpin,” then to the Spanish “chiltepín,” and finally Anglicized to “chilipiquin,” as the plant is known in Texas. We have settled on a non-accented “Chiltepin” as the English term for the plant and fruit. Its botanical name is Capsicum annuum var. aviculare.
Although the Chiltepin plant’s average height is about four feet, there are reports of individual bushes growing ten feet tall, living twenty-five to thirty years, and having stems as big around as a man’s wrist. Chiltepins are resistant to frost but lose their leaves in cold winter weather. New growth will sprout from the base of the plant if it is frozen back.
The Americans swear that it is exceedingly healthful and very good as an aid to the digestion. ” In fact, even today, Chiltepins are used—amazingly enough—as a treatment for acid indigestion.
Most experts believe the Chiltepin, also called Tepin, is the original wild chile - the plant from which all others have evolved. It is a tiny round berry slightly larger than a peppercorn. It is very decorative and bright scarlet in color and, despite its high heat level, it is attractive to wild birds, who helped to distribute it across the prehistoric Americas. Other name include Chile Mosquito, Chile de Pajaro, Chile Silvestre or Tecpintle. One ounce of this dried pepper with seeds removed will produce a detectable hotness in 50,000 ounces (over 300 gallons) of salsa! Heat level is 8 on the scale of 10.
HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
WHEREAS, The Lone Star State’s reputation as a haven for lovers of hot and spicy food is well deserved, and the native chiltepin pepper has contributed greatly to this proud legacy; and
WHEREAS, A member of the genus Capsicum, the chiltepin grows wild in our temperate climate and is both undeniably American and typically Texan; its distinctive flavor makes it ideal for hearty stews and red-hot Texas chili, and it is a staple in many Tex-Mex favorites; and
WHEREAS, Even the mockingbird, our state bird, recognizes the appeal of this piquant pod, choosing to dine on it almost exclusively when the pepper is in season; wild turkeys, too, are often seen feeding on these tasty little morsels, and these and other fruit-eating wild birds play a vital role in the chiltepin’s proliferation; and
WHEREAS, Found in abundance from the southern United States to northern South America, the chiltepin has been used for many years by the various peoples who have populated our great state; known variously as chile mosquito and chile bravo, the Spanish described this zesty fruit as “arrebatado,” meaning that although its spiciness is immediate and intense, this bold sensation does not linger long; and
WHEREAS, The chiltepin is used in both fresh and dried forms, combined with vinegar to make a tangy sauce or sprinkled into soup to provide just the right seasoning; perhaps the most amazing attribute of this indigenous spice is that it has been shown to increase the human metabolism by as much as 25 percent, making it a promising means of controlling weight gain; and
WHEREAS, The chiltepin’s storied history even includes a footnote to one of our greatest American presidents, Thomas Jefferson; an avid gardener, President Jefferson acquired some of these exotic tiny peppers from a fellow horticulturist and displayed a keen interest in establishing a market for this Texas pepper; and
WHEREAS, It is important to acknowledge and promote our endemic natural resources, for they are an integral part of our heritage and help to make us recognizable to other cultures around the globe; the chiltepin is Texas’ only native pepper, and its long history and wide variety of uses make it truly deserving of special recognition and endorsement; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the 75th Legislature of the State of Texas hereby declare the chiltepin the official State Native Pepper of Texas.
28 November 1915, Los Angeles Times, pg. II4:
CHILE CON CARNAGE.
BEING THE PERSONAL OPINIONS
OF DON YO DE CHILTEPIN.