Fans of spicy food enjoy looking for interesting ways to flavor their food and challenge their thresholds. If that describes you, learn about ancho peppers!
Though one of the most popular peppers in Mexican cuisine, they’re not as widely recognized as the jalapeño or habanero in the United States. We invite you to learn about it and see why it belongs in your garden!
Facts About Ancho Peppers
Have you heard of poblano peppers? Ancho peppers are basically poblanos that have ripened to the point that they turn red, after which they are harvested and left to dry in the sun. The word “ancho” is Spanish for “wide,” a reference to the pepper’s large size.
Originating in Puebla, Mexico, before the formation of the Aztec empire, these peppers have remained a beloved ingredient in Mexican cuisine for centuries. In fact, they are key to making mole poblano, the national food of Mexico.
Characteristics of Ancho Peppers
Just because ancho peppers are big doesn’t mean you’ll know how to recognize one! The first step to appreciating them is to learn what to look for and expect. We’ll explain!
The average ancho pepper is roughly two and a half inches wide and three to four inches long. Despite their size, they usually weigh only half an ounce. When ripe or freshly picked, their smooth skin looks bright red; they become wrinkled and blackish-red when sun-dried.
Though they’ll certainly add a kick to your food, ancho peppers are not as spicy as other popular peppers, like jalapeños. Their mild heat is balanced out by a smoky, earthy flavor tinged with sweetness. Some people even call it chocolatey.
You’ll love how ancho peppers enhance your food’s flavor, but you’ll also appreciate how it makes you healthier. Check out the nutrients you’ll get from eating them!
The capsaicin doesn’t just make these peppers fun to eat! It prevents or alleviates inflammation throughout your body, making it a great way to combat diseases like diabetes, cancer, shingles, psoriasis, and arthritis.
You’ll have stronger immune and reproductive systems with the vitamin A that you can get from ancho peppers. Your eyes, lungs, heart, and other organs will work better, too.
Famous as an antioxidant, vitamin C helps your body neutralize free radical cells responsible for causing cancer. It also keeps your immune system robust and encourages damaged tissue to heal.
If you want clot-free blood and strong bones, you need the rich amounts of vitamin K found in ancho peppers. Healthier blood lowers your risk of heart disease as well.
In addition to preventing overeating by making you feel full quickly, fiber promotes gut and blood health. This means you’ll enjoy lower cholesterol and blood sugar and more comfortable bowel movements.
How to Grow Ancho Peppers
Have we piqued your interest enough for you to consider growing ancho peppers in your home garden? Great! First, however, you’ll need tips on how to produce the best peppers possible. Read our advice before you get started!
About six to eight weeks before the last spring frost, plant the seeds about a quarter of an inch deep in well-drained soil that regularly receives full sunlight. Since these peppers grow so large, space the seeds about two or three feet apart from each other.
Ancho peppers need at least an inch of water per week if there’s no rainfall. Water them a little more if outdoor temperatures rise above 80˚F or the soil is especially dry. You could also add a layer of mulch to help the soil retain moisture.
A week after planting, apply a fertilizer with moderate nitrogen so that the peppers have all the nutrients they need.
Characterized by defoliation and dark blemishes, bacterial spots are a common disease for peppers.
Other than buying clean, healthy seeds from a reputable seller, the surest way to prevent this problem is to soak the seeds in hot water for 30 minutes before planting them and install an irrigation system that deposits water deep into the soil rather than onto the leaves.
Aphids, spider mites, and flea beetles also love to eat plants. If you don’t have a natural insecticide with which to get rid of them, try mixing some water with liquid detergent in a bottle and spraying it on the affected plants.
Once your ancho peppers are bright red, they’re ready to harvest. They should be easy to pull off the vine at that point, but since you might get a lot of foliage that way, you may prefer cutting the peppers with shears or scissors. Set them inside a basket, wheelbarrow, or bucket.
The most convenient way to dry them is to use a dehydrator. However, if you’d like a more traditional route, rinse off all the dirt and then set them in the sun for several consecutive days at an outdoor temperature of 90˚F.
Where to Buy Ancho Peppers
To try whole ancho peppers, head to your nearest grocery store; even retailers north of Mexico and the southwestern U.S. will likely stock such a popular pepper. Order seeds from a reliable online retailer like True Leaf Market if you want to grow your own and control their quality.
Recipes with Ancho Peppers
Since ancho peppers are omnipresent in Mexican cuisine, you’ll have no trouble finding them in recipes for mole, salsa, tacos, enchiladas, and similar items. What else can you do with them? We’ll give you some ideas!
Ancho peppers are often used to garnish or flavor a dish. With this recipe for stuffed peppers, they’re the main attraction, along with a delectable bean sauce!
The only way to make a pepper’s heat more pleasant is to put it into a warm bowl of soup. Try this creamy ancho pepper soup when you need to perk yourself up.
Capsaicin can be a surprising yet delightful way to spice up dessert. This chocolate cake with ancho peppers is a perfect example!
Add Ancho Peppers to Your Garden!
If you’re ready for all the ways that ancho peppers can diversify your garden and diet, get ready to plant them! Like most pepper plants, they’re worth the time and effort to grow. In fact, we’ve got a whole section of our website dedicated to discussing peppers.
Go there to learn more about what peppers are like and what they can do for you!