Harvesting Chiltepin, Talking Diversity

Even as I do not have so many different kinds of chiltepin anymore, some diversity still remains – even just in my garden.

Chiltepin is a peculiar kind of chilli. It is the wild ancestor of the whole diversity of Capsicum annuum, i.e. everything from most Asian chilli to jalapeño, serrano, poblano, as well as all the bell peppers eaten as vegetables.

It is also quite recognizable in its spherical shape, small sizes, pods presented erect on the bushes and easy to separate from the stem they sit on.

For the same reason, though – how small and clear in shape it is – chiltepin is not very diverse… except when it is.

I still have some chiltepin that I am pretty sure is the one that I received from the Dunnam family in the USA years (actually, I guess by now it’s been more than a decade) ago. They had been growing it for a while already…

More usually, the diversity one finds is one of accessions. That is, of chiltepin that is still growing in the wild, that someone collected and (hopefully) labeled with the place where they had found it.

There is also a, more recognizable, diversity I had lost, but have got back: chiltepin that does not ripen to red, but to yellow – or, as it turned out only recently (to my knowledge), to chocolate-brown.

Chiltepin is fascinating just for its wild nature and somewhat different growing conditions from cultivated kinds of chilli, for its rapid and high pungency – but also, and to me most of all, to wonder about the development of chilli diversity.

Isn’t it fascinating, for example, that the chocolate-brown color that surfaces in some bell peppers, but especially in pasilla and mulato chiles, should already be found in a chiltepin?

And a chiltepin that had not been described, let alone grown, until a short while ago?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.