By now most of you know that I am not a fan of chili-hot anything. But you must also know that I loathe wasting perfectly good food, and that I love a good deal…
When I was asked (so very nicely that I really couldn’t refuse) for the second year in a row (!) to participate in the Zilker Festival flower show, I gave in. It turned out all right; once I heard that the overall theme for the show was Dance Fever, and specifically that the theme for the novice category was “Line Dance“, I knew just what I wanted to use in an arrangement. And, I knew just where to get my hands on it.
See, chili pequin, or bird chili ( so called, I believe, because only birds can really handle them, as birds are not bothered by capsaicin…) is found in yards, vacant lots, and green spaces all around my neighborhood. This plant is widely distributed by birds “enjoying” the peppers then scattering the seeds will he nil he. Happily they often deposit the seeds fairly close to the point of ingestion (I’m trying to be polite here, ok?) so I have lots of chili pequin dotted around my yard.
If I can spot them, I happily mow around them. I suppose they are weeds, but they are certainly pretty ones! And what’s the difference between a native plant (good) and a weed (bad)? PR, that’s all!
The mature chili pequin plants are lovely, usually around 30 inches tall with wispy branches which, in very early spring, have lost their leaves but which are covered with tiny dried peppers from the previous fall. So, linear arrangement, line dance, you see?
I was pleased with and amused by my final arrangement. Fortunately I was invited to participate back in February, early enough that the new growth on last year’s plants hadn’t started yet; I was able to harvest just what I needed from my yard. The toughest part was buying a single bottle of Texas beer… but that’s another story.
Anyway, now I have a nice little batch of bird chili peppers! I certainly won’t waste them; some will go back into the yard, but some will end up in soups or stews or… I am planning to start with roughly one pepper to a pot of soup. We’ll see how it ends up.
Actually, this salsa is really good. I’m working from a recipe I found on line, but I have cut the chili from 2 tablespoons (which would be several dozen peppers as they are tiny, good heavens!) to 2 peppers (not tsp or tbsp… just two peppers, trust me!). I made a batch this morning and it has been sitting on the counter for about half an hour. It actually is just hot enough for me, which means, um, not really more than tepid. Feel free to adjust up (or down) on the heat scale by adding more (or less, or even no) peppers!
“For the Birds” Salsa
2 dried chili pequin peppers, crushed very fine
1/2 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt
1 lb. fresh ripe tomatoes (about 3 C), seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped very fine
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1 ataulfo (yellow) mango, pulp only, cubed
1 good bunch (about 1/2 C) cilantro, rough chopped
juice of one lime
Grind the salt and peppers together in a spice/coffee grinder* to make a fine powder. Combine all other ingredients in a medium-sized glass mixing bowl. Sprinkle with salt/bird pepper mix and stir to blend well. Allow to sit at least 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy it with chips for an appetizer…or try a spoonful in an omelet perhaps, or even mix some in with that remarkably versatile corn and bean salad. And, I’m thinking this salsa wants a beer chaser…
Now I’m getting excited about this! *Caution: You probably won’t want to use this grinder for coffee… but if you must, run some dry bread crumbs through (and keep them aside from your other bread crumbs!!) to clean out traces of the peppers. Let me know what you think! Mmmm… whew!