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Red Arbol Chile Peppers
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Red Arbol chile peppers are elongated and slender, averaging 5 to 8 centimeters in length and one centimeter in diameter, and have a slightly curved, cylindrical, and tapered shape with a woody green-brown stem. The bean-like pods are smooth, shiny, firm, and are dark green when young, transforming to a bright red when mature. Underneath the surface, the thin flesh is crisp, aqueous, and pale red, encasing many small and round cream-colored seeds attached to nearly translucent ivory-red ribs. Red Arbol chile peppers have a smoky, tannic, and grassy flavor with a lively acidic, penetrating spicy heat that is felt mainly in the throat.
Red Arbol chile peppers are available year-round, with a peak season in the summer through early fall.
Red Arbol chile peppers, botanically classified as Capsicum annuum, are spicy, mature pods that grow on branched bushes and are members of the Solanaceae or nightshade family. Most commonly known as Chile de Arbol and also as Pico de Pajaro or “bird’s beak,” and Cola de Rata which means “rat’s tail, Red Arbol chile peppers earn their “tree-like” name from the branches the pods grow on and are distinguished by their long stem which turns to a woody brown hue when dried. Red Arbol chile peppers are considered to be one of the most popular varieties of peppers in the world and are used as a flavoring agent in Asian, Mexican, and American cuisine. Labeled as a medium to hot pepper, Red Arbol chile peppers range 15,000-30,000 SHU on the Scoville scale and can occasionally be found fresh in local markets. The pepper is most commonly found in dried or powdered form and is used as a spice for added flavor and heat.
Red Arbol chile peppers are an excellent source of vitamin A, which can help protect from vision loss, and contain high amounts of capsaicin, which is a compound that gives the pepper its sensation of heat and is believed to provide anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. The pepper also contains vitamins C and B6, riboflavin, thiamin, copper, iron, manganese, potassium, and fiber.
Red Arbol chile peppers are a versatile chile that can be utilized in fresh, dried, and powdered form in both raw and cooked applications. When utilized raw, the peppers can be chopped into sauces, blended into marinades and sauces, or minced into salads. The peppers are also famously used as a flavoring agent and can be used whole and dried to infuse olive oils, vinegars, stir-fries, and alcohol. In addition to fresh applications, Red Arbol chile peppers can be roasted to heighten their smoky flavor and mixed into curries, stews, soups, and mole. The peppers can also be dried, ground into a spice and used as a dry rub for meats, mixed into Spanish meatballs, sprinkled over toasted almonds, or mixed with other spices and served over grilled fish. In Mexican cuisine, Red Arbol chile peppers are commonly fried whole and served alongside street tacos, beans, and rice. Red Arbol chile peppers pair well with tomato, vinegar, roasted garlic, peanut, onion, refried beans, tomatillos, chocolate, avocado, queso fresco, beef, poultry, shrimp, cilantro, and mango. The peppers will keep up to one week when stored fresh, whole, and unwashed in the refrigerator. Dried peppers will keep up to one year when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.
In New Mexico, Red Arbol chile peppers are used in decorative arrangements known as ristras, or strings of dried peppers. Originally hung on walls to prevent bug and rodent infestations during the drying process, Red Arbol chile peppers are one of the only pepper varieties to retain their bright hues when dried and are popularly used for ornamental and culinary purposes. The peppers are commonly shaped into aesthetically appealing wreaths and pillars and are hung at the front of a house as a welcome symbol and to attract good luck. They are also sometimes displayed in the kitchen, and individual dried peppers are pulled from the string as needed to be utilized as a flavoring in everyday home cooking.
Red Arbol chile peppers are native to the regions of Jalisco, Chihuahua, and Oaxaca in Mexico and have been cultivated for hundreds of years. The pepper was first documented in the 16th century by Francisco Hernandez, a Spanish naturalist sent to the New World by the king of Spain to study the plants of Mexico. The seeds of the plant were also introduced into Southeast Asia and later the United States through trade expeditions. Today Red Arbol chile peppers are grown in the regions of Zacatecas, Nayarit, Jalisco, Oaxaca, Chihuahua, and Sinaloa in Mexico and are found at local markets in fresh, dried, and powdered form. The peppers can also be found around the world thriving in warm, frost-free climates, especially in New Mexico, and are being commercially cultivated in regions of Asia such as China and in Southeast Asia.
Recipes that include Red Arbol Chile Peppers. One is easiest, three is harder.