Herbs & Plants
Of The Southwest
The Native American gift of Pepper has become a popular ingredient of world cuisine, from as wide a ranging areas as the hot peppers of the Schezuan region of China to the beloved paprika of Hungary. Our native peppers, capsicum frutescens, is no the same plant as the black pepper used as a table condiment, piper nigrum. Strings of different varieties of dried chili peppers used for seasoning, known as “ristras”, are to be found hanging from the vigas (ceiling beams) of pueblo homes, and are indeed an icon of the southwest.
In the US today, the sweeter, milder Bell Pepper, with its big blocky shape so suitable for stuffing, are very popular eaten as a vegetable, either in salads or cooked. Our own personal favorite, which grows quite successfully in Southwestern gardens, surviving even extreme heat if it gets a little shade, is the hybrid Banana Pepper, a long yellow-green variety with some of the sweeter flavor of a Bell Pepper, but with a little spicy “bite” to it also. Just chop it up and add it to salads, or to any cooked food to which you would add chopped onions, and you will increase not only your flavor, but your Vitamin C intake! An interesting fact concerning both peppers and tomatoes is that now chili sauce has outranked tomato ketchup in popularity in the US.