I’ve Got a Chile Problem

Two years ago I planted chile pequin.

I bought the dried chiles at the grocery store, crushed the pods, and harvested the seeds. I planted them first in little pots, and then larger pots as they grew. I had nine or ten or eleven before I started giving them away.

Last year I got a volunteer. It sprouted on the edge of the slab, where it would catch the nutrient-rich runoff when I watered in the greenhouse. Soon it was a tall as my wife.

Seeing that, I put some of the other pequin into the ground. Now I have five chile pequin that I planted in the ground, and more volunteers. The older plants are all at least waist tall. And fertile. I can harvest a half cup of red chile pequin every day. And I’ve planted other chiles, too. Jalapeños. Gueros. Cayenne. Serranos. Habaneros. Some of the plants I bought at nurseries, and some I grew from seeds.

The abundance of the harvest is a problem. Here’s how I’m dealing with it.

I make a salsa ranchera. I take maybe three tablespoons of the fresh red chile pequin and a half a can of diced tomatoes and some garlic cloves and put them in a blender and let it rip till they’re all pureed. Then I chop some onions, and whatever other chiles are ripe, and the rest of the tomatoes, and cook it down on the stove. Then I lightly fry some corn tortillas, fry some eggs over easy, grate some cheese, and ouila, Huevos Rancheros.

Or I make salsas to use or freeze. Garlic, onions, tomatoes. Maybe a carrot. Sometimes I burn them in the black pan before I throw them in the blender. Sometimes I only burn some of them. Sometimes I add a little Chicken Knorr, or fresh sage from the garden, or comino. Sometimes I use a little fruit, papaya or mango, apricots, apples. I keep threatening to make a chutney, but so far I’m all talk.

Those pequin are hot. To make a salsa you have to step on them. You can temper their fire with the other ingredients.

In South Texas the pequin grow wild. In the Sierra, I’ve seen pequin plants eight feet tall and as big around. They’ll winter through a freeze if they get water.

Even if you don’t eat chile, you should have a chile pequin plant in your yard. They’re hearty, and beautiful. When that green, thin-leafed plant is covered in those little red chiles, it looks like Christmas. And you never know when that kick will come in handy.

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