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Three Things You Probably Didn't Know About Chiles

We here at ChiliZilla can sometimes forget that not everyone in the world has done the deep-dive descent into chile pepper and hot sauce madness that we have, and that some things that we take for granted just aren't common knowledge. And that's okay!

But for those who thirst for knowledge as well as for hot sauce (drink deep, my friends), we present these three little-known facts that you just might find interesting, enlightening, entertaining, or some combination of all three. 

Green and red jalapeños

Enjoy!

  1. Chipotles are Smoked Red Jalapeños

    And yes, red jalapeños are actually ripe jalapeños -- the green jalapeños that we're so accustomed to are intentionally picked before they're ripe. Why, you ask? The answer is primarily commercial.

    Jalapeños, because they are fleshier than many other peppers, take longer to ripen and thus have to stay on the plant longer. But when a jalapeño stays on the plant, the plant tends to put its resources into the pepper rather than into putting out more fruit; so harvesting the jalapeños when they're green means the plant will produce more peppers, which is obviously just what commercial growers want. Furthermore, green jalapeños will have a longer shelf life before spoiling -- which is also attractive to both growers and grocers.

    So, back to chipotles. Chipotles have been around for thousands of years, with the word itself coming from two Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs) words that essentially mean "smoked chiles." The smoking and drying process were both likely ways to preserve the ripe, red jalapeños for future use.

    So the next time you have anything involving chipotles, like the delicious chipotle and mezcal infused Oaxaca hot sauce, know that you're tasting time-tested flavors that have been around for a very long time, indeed.

  2. Ghost Peppers are Really Named Bhut Jolokia

    You'll commonly see both names, but the ghost pepper name seems to be a little more common in America than bhut jolokia. But where does the bhut jolokia name even come from? Well, it comes from northeastern India, where the type was developed. There is some disagreement, though, as to why its English name is ghost pepper. Most sources indicate that "bhut" literally means "ghost," and thus we have "ghost pepper," but others believe that the actual word is "bhot," which would mean "Bhutanese pepper."

    (Looking for the flavors of bhut jolokia? Check out this ghost pepper Assam Hot Sauce from Clark & Hopkins.)

    To further confuse the issue, sometimes bhut jolokias are also known as naga jolokias, owing to their cultivation in the Nagaland area of India. All of which begs the question, though, of whether it's fair to say that jolokias are "from" India, and the answer to which is "not totally," because...

  3. All Chile Peppers Originated in the New World

    Yes, that's right: Before Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, chile peppers were unknown in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Spiciness in the Old World was provided primarily by black pepper -- which is why, when Columbus mistakenly landed in the Caribbean and thought it was India, he quickly named the chiles that he found "peppers." (It's unclear exactly what variety he brought back -- some claim that it was tepin or piquin, and although that's not accepted fact, you can taste both of those, if you so desire, in the Acid Rain Hot Sauce from Hatari.)

    In any case, the "peppers" we love are called that simply because of a branding exercise undertaken by Columbus, who brought the chiles he found back to Spain after his second voyage. It was the Portuguese, though, who are truly responsible for spreading chiles around the word -- by 1550 or so, barely more than 50 years after Columbus's voyage, the chile pepper had been established by the Portuguese in Indonesia, half a world away.

    From there, chile peppers quickly spread and were cultivated into the wide variety of peppers, packing the wide variety of flavors and heat levels, that we know today. 

So there you have it -- three fun facts about chiles that didn't know before. Or did, but forgot. Or already knew, but you kept reading because of the stellar writing found on the ChiliZilla blog. ANYWAY: We're glad you stopped by, and we hope that from here you'll do two things: Read more of our chile and hot sauce blog content, and go have a look at all of the amazing gourmet hot sauces we have for you.

Enjoy, and Provechito!

 

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