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Texas State Native Pepper
(Capsicum annuum var. aviculare)
Adopted on June 18, 1995.
Symbols that represent the Southwest in homes across the United States and beyond are hot. New Mexico adopted the chili (or chile) and frijoles (pinto beans) as its state vegetables because they are often eaten together. Not to be outdone, Texans named the jalapeño their official state pepper June 18, 1995. In 1997, they crowned the chiltepin, Capsicum annuum var. aviculare, their official "native pepper."
The chiltepin, called the "mother of all peppers," is thought to be the oldest known of the Capsicum genus, as well as the hottest wild variety in the Americas even hotter than the habanero. They grow on the rocky surfaces of steep slopes and are difficult to find because they are usually protected by other shrubbery.
Pepper Profile: Chiltepin
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.
Chiltepins are one of the few crops in the world which are harvested in the wild rather than cultivated. (Others are mushrooms, piñon nuts, Brazil nuts, and some wild rice.)In the wild, piquins 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 1/2 inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide. The flower corollas are white with no spots. They blooms all year and repeatedly.The pods are borne erect, are round or oblong, and measure between 1/4 and 1/2 inch long and wide.
Domesticated varieties from tiny and round, but usually have elongate, pointed pods, usually borne erect but occasionally pendant, sometimes measuring up to 2 inches long.
Piquins 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.
Archaeologists in Mexico have discovered evidence that humans were chomping on wild chiles, called chiltepins, during prehistoric times — as far back as 7500 B.C.
The Tarahumara Indians of the Sonoran Desert in Mexico believe that chiltepins 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."
The red dried chiltepin is crushed into soups, stews, and bean dishes. The green fruit is chopped and used in salsas and bottled en escabeche.
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