You may have never heard of the Pequin pepper before, but believe it or not, you’ve probably eaten one! Or, at the very least, you’ve tried a sauce made with Pequin chile peppers.
As a vital ingredient of some of the most popular hot sauces on the market, the Pequin pepper packs a whole lot of heat and flavor in one tiny package.
If you’re looking to experiment with new kinds of chiles, you’re in the right place! To learn more about the Pequin pepper and how to grow your crop at home, keep reading!
Characteristics of the Pequin Pepper
Thought to get its name from the Spanish word pequeño, meaning small or little, the Pequin pepper lives up to its origin. It’s tiny, growing to two centimeters long, and slightly oblong.
The Pequin is bright red in color once mature but starts out as most chiles do, as a light green shade.
The plant itself has a compact, bush-like appearance, giving it an almost ornamental look. Because of its size and similarity to a berry, the Pequin pepper and others like it are referred to as “bird peppers” since they’re small enough for a bird to grab and snack on.
Fun fact: birds aren’t affected by capsaicin, the chemical that makes hot peppers taste spicy, so they truly can snack on (and spread) the peppers!
Don’t be fooled by this petite pepper – the Pequin is HOT. Falling between 30,000 to 60,000 on the Scoville Scale, a Pequin pepper is up to twenty times as hot as a jalapeno pepper.
If you can handle the heat, you’ll be rewarded with a unique chile flavor that is citrusy, smoky, and slightly nutty. Because of their interesting, fruity tang, Pequin peppers are sought after for many popular dishes, sauces, and spices.
Pequin Pepper Nutritional Facts
Speaking of capsaicin, hot peppers like the Pequin have some great health benefits due to their chemical makeup.
Capsaicin has some anti-microbial properties and acts as a decongestant for those struggling with cold or seasonal allergies.
If you’ve rubbed your eyes after cutting hot peppers, you might find that hard to believe, but capsaicin has pharmaceutical use as a pain-relieving agent.
Additionally, eating hot peppers raises your internal temperature, therefore speeding up your metabolism.
Recipes Using Your Pequin Peppers
One of the most popular ways to eat your Pequin chile peppers is in a salsa. The tomatoes’ freshness balances the Pequin peppers’ bite nicely, making for a tasty, sweet, and spicy dip.
Commercially, you can find Pequin peppers in lots of different hot sauces. But if you’re keen to try your hand at some classic Pequin recipes, here’s a great take on homemade hot sauce you can make right in your kitchen.
Drying Pequin Peppers
The drying process for Pequins might differ a bit from other hot peppers because of their size. To prevent rot, you typically want to place your peppers on a drying rack or baking sheet in bright light or sun with rungs or holes so that the peppers get proper ventilation while they sit.
Pequin peppers are too small for a cooling rack, so drying them out using this method will take a bit more labor. You can set them on a plate or a tray instead, but you’ll need to move them around a few times daily to ensure they stay aerated.
Stringing up your peppers is also usually an option, but again, the size of the Pequins could make this challenge. Using a food dehydrator is your best bet for drying these itty bitty peppers.
Growing Pequin Peppers at Home
Planting and Care Guide
Because the Pequin chile pepper plants are compact and shallow-rooted, they tend to do better in pots or wide planters, which is probably a bit different than most pepper plants you may have grown before.
They’re quite tolerant plants, can survive through milder winters, and bear fruit most of the year.
However, it’s still best practice to start the seeds indoors in early spring, six to eight weeks before the last frost when consistently warm night temperatures roll in. Keep them hot, moist, and in plenty of light for them to germinate. In two to four weeks, you can transplant your seedlings into pots!
If you prefer to grow them in direct soil, you can move them to the garden once six true leaves appear on the plant. Keep them roughly three feet apart and in partial sun.
These petite peppers and their leaves often fall victim to sun scorch, so whether in pots or direct soil, they need some shade once the plants begin to fruit.
They’re hardy little plants but can certainly benefit from some fertilizer, particularly ones that are phosphorous-rich.
Aphids are their biggest predators, especially for more isolated plants in pots, but you can control any unwanted pests with a bit of organic neem oil or other insecticidal sprays.
In roughly 100 days, your peppers will be firetruck red and ready to harvest!
Companion Plants for Your Hot Peppers
Typically, chile peppers grow great when surrounded by variety. Gardens with basil, cosmos, zinnias, garlic, peas, beans, okra, sprouts, broccoli, and carrots are great environments for your hot peppers to thrive!
However, determining companion plants is less of a concern if you choose to grow your Pequin peppers in pots.
Pequin Pepper Buying Guide
The availability of Pequin peppers ultimately comes down to your region. The peppers are popular in Central and South America and the southwestern region of the United States but aren’t necessarily staples in your local grocery store or plant nursery.
You’d likely have some luck finding Pequins at a Mexican or Latin grocer, but most folks will have to find the seeds, plants, or dried whole online.
Turn Up The Heat With Pequin Peppers!
Each chile pepper comes with a unique flavor to try, and the Pequin is no exception! This makes chiles a fun new addition to your garden and an ingredient in your kitchen.
To learn more about how to grow and care for your pepper plants, check out our pepper page here!
- About the Author
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Leah is a writer, editor, and content manager with Minneopa Orchards and holds a master’s degree in English.
She grew up in the south and enjoyed long growing seasons spent in her father’s lush vegetable garden. Buying produce from the store was unheard of in her house!
As such, Leah enjoys writing about gardening and sharing her knowledge and experiences with others.
Leah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org