Peppers, Chiles Are a Hot Topic

Times Staff Writer

Question: I have been searching for information on peppers and chiles--how to identify them by name and appearance, the degree of hotness, etc. I’m particularly interested in the Ancho and Chipotle.

Answer: The most definitive information we’ve come across is in the book “Peppers--The Domesticated Capsicums” (University of Texas Press: 1985, $35) by Jean Andrews. Here are excerpts from some of the 32 cultivars covered by the author.

ANAHEIM: The immature pod is referred to as a long green chile or chile verde. Mature ones are red chiles or chiles colorado. If the green pods have been roasted, peeled and dried in the sun, they are called chiles pasados. The dried red ones are chiles colorados or chiles de las tierras. These are the least fiery of the hot chiles.

ANCHO: One of the chiles covered by the blanket term poblano when they are green. Ancho is the term usually used after they are dried. However, in Baja California, both the fresh and dry forms of this blackish green, heart-shaped chile are often called Ancho, and sometimes even Pasilla. The pungency ranges from almost mild to hot.


BANANA PEPPER (Hungarian Wax): Long, shiny yellow chiles that may be either sweet or hot. Banana is the term usually used for the sweet variety, Hungarian Wax for the hot. Both turn scarlet when fully mature, and the Hungarian Wax becomes almost inedible.

BELL: The sweet, thick-fleshed green and red peppers that are used primarily as a vegetable.

FRESNO: Sometimes the short, tapered pods of this medium-sized wax variety are simply called hot chiles, because of their pungency. They turn bright-red when mature, but are primarily used in the green stage.

JALAPENO: In this country, both the fresh and pickled forms of this thick-fleshed, cylindrical variety are called Jalapeno. In Mexico, however, the fresh green pod is known as cuaresmeno (Lenten chile) and they refer to only the pickled form as Jalapeno. In most parts of Mexico, they are called chipotles after being fully ripened and smoked. Jalapenos are considered piquant, hotter than the varieties already mentioned.


PASILLA: A gentle-flavored variety that is sometimes confused with the Ancho. The ripe undried pods are dark brown and have a long, narrow, curving shape. After drying they are wrinkled and the color of a raisin.

PIMENTO: Pointed, heart-shaped cultivar that is used primarily for canning.

SERRANO: Hottest of the varieties listed, with a cylindrical shape that is slimmer and shorter than the jalapeno. Most are used in fresh, green form.

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