The "Mother of All Peppers" Might Be Growing in Your Yard

Categories: Eat This
chiltepin.jpg
Have you seen these peppers in bushes outside? The tiny tepin or chiltepin is the only wild chili native to the U.S. and is believed to be the oldest and hottest species of wild pepper.

I first saw it in Tarpon River at a friend's house, a spindly shrub my friend had fenced off for protection. When he bought his house, Tom knew the peppers when he saw them, since his father grew them in his childhood home near Sarasota. "What are you doing with this poor bush?" I asked him. "It looks like it's too late for this one." I was wrong.

Though the leaves were spindly and sad, the bush bore hundreds of tiny peppers that look like shriveled holly berries. According to Slow Food, the wild harvest of these peppers "is a seasonal ritual in many rural communities to this day, where families make chili-harvesting camps in the mountains during the heat of September and early October in order to harvest the wild peppers."  Here, they're year-round.

These tiny peppers pack a ton of heat, clocking in at 50,000 to 100,000 on the Scoville Scale, about on par with a Thai bird pepper, though less hot than scotch bonnets and ghost peppers.

Have you seen them around? What do you do with them, aside from pop them in your mouth as a very spicy snack?


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2 comments
freakerdude
freakerdude

I have only seen them on Heatseekers and I think they use them a lot in Mexico. I would never eat one of those solo....yikes!

Melissamccart
Melissamccart

Ah, I've seen them twice now since the playoffs. They're around. I kind of want to cook with them or use them with pho.

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