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Peter Chile Peppers
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Peter chile peppers are medium-sized, measuring an average of 10 centimeters long and 2 centimeters wide. They have a twisted and wrinkled, cylindrical shape ending with a rounded, blunt tip accented with a cleft. The peppers mature from dark green to a deep red and can be harvested at either stage. Immature peppers will not have the same levels of capsaicin as the mature pods. The peppers have thick walls, small placenta and few seeds. Peter chile peppers range anywhere between 5,000 and 30,000 Scoville Heat Units, or from medium-hot to very spicy.
Peter chile peppers are available in the late summer and through the fall months.
Peter chile peppers are an unusually shaped, relatively rare, heirloom variety of Capsicum annuum. The pepper is touted as a conversation starter, a novelty variety, and is often sold as an ornamental pepper. It earned its name for its provocative shape, which resembles that of the male genitalia. One farmer in Tennessee, H.W. Alfrey, cultivated Peter chile peppers, hand selecting and saving seeds from only the shapeliest of specimens.
Peter chile peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, and a good source of vitamins A, B-6, and K. They contain the minerals copper, magnesium, iron, and manganese and the electrolyte potassium. The ribs and seeds of the peppers contain capsaicin, which helps stimulate the circulatory and digestive systems and has demonstrated cancer fighting properties.
Peter chile peppers can be used raw, cooked, or dried and ground. To reduce the level of spice, remove the seeds and ribs, which contain capsaicin, the compound responsible for the pepper’s heat. Use gloves when preparing the peppers, to protect the hands from the capsaicin which can cause irritation and burning. Raw peppers can be used to make hot sauces or salsas. Roast Peter chile peppers for sandwiches, sides or for hot sauces. Peter chile peppers can be dried and ground into chile flake or powder and used as a spice or seasoning. Use Peter chile peppers in soups, stews, sauces, pastas and other dishes calling for spicy peppers. Store Peter chile peppers in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
A small company in Lafayette, Louisiana specializes in growing Peter chile peppers for use in their Cajun seasoning called spice de terre (spice of the earth). They also feature the Peter pepper along with pearl onions in a pickled product called “nature’s family jewels,” which is sold in gift bottles sealed with red wax.
Peter chile peppers are believed to be native to Texas and Louisiana in the American South and date back to the 1700s. They were made popular by a Tennessee man who started his own seed company based around the peculiar pepper. The owner and namesake of Alfrey Seeds spent decades cultivating Peter peppers for taste and shape, and he is credited with naming them. Alfrey Peter chile pepper seeds are considered a special stock, and the name is often used to demonstrate quality. Peter chile peppers are rarely found in stores and are most often grown by home gardeners, with seeds available through several online vendors. They may, however, be spotted at farmer’s markets when in season.