One of my favorite things about traveling to new places is learning about the traditions of that area. Every year in Veracruz, Mexico, they celebrate the New Year by creating a “old man” stuffed with clothing. They fill him with fireworks and ignite him at midnight. It is their way of saying goodbye to the “old year” and ringing in the new one.
These peppers remind me of those New Year’s firecrackers. They are long and skinny, and they have an explosive heat! I have a wonderful recipe for a chile de árbol salsa that goes great with tacos. I will be sure to share the recipe sometime soon.
Name: Chile de Árbol
AKA: Pico de Pájaro (Bird’s beak), Cola de Rata (Rat’s tail), Chile Bravo
Fresh Chile Name: When fresh, this chile is also called the chile de árbol. However, it is mostly used in its dry form.
Description: These chiles are narrow and slightly curved, measuring about 2-3” long and ¼- ½” wide. They ripen from green to an orangey red and keep their bright color when dried. They have lots of yellow round-shaped seeds inside. Their name translates to “tree chile,” not because they grow on a tree, but because their woody stem resembles the bark of a tree.
Flavor and Heat: Do not let the small size of this pepper fool you. Much like the habanero, this pepper packs a lot of heat. It is between 15,000-30,000 on the Scoville scale. If you remove the seeds, you can slightly reduce the heat. This chile has a natural, grassy flavor and an acidic punch. It is often crushed and added to table salsas, but it can also be used to flavor oils and vinegar.
Substitutions: Cayenne, Japonés, Piquín
Other Information: The chile de árbol probably originated in Oaxaca or Jalisco as an offshoot of the cayenne pepper. In addition to being used in cooking, they are often used as decoration in wreaths.
Do you have any interesting New Year’s traditions?