Chilli Seeds

It is not known exactly when chillies were introduced into New Mexico. Chillies may have been used by the indigenous peoples as a medicine, a practice common among the Mayans.  By the time the Spanish arrived in Mexico, Aztec plant breeders had already developed dozens of varieties. According to historian Bernardino de Sahagùn, who lived in Mexico in 1529, “hot green chillies, smoked chillies, water chillies, tree chillies, beetle chillies, and sharp-pointed red chillies” existed.

Chilli fruits are considered vegetables when green, a spice when red and dried, but are berries botanically. Fruit characteristics (i.e., pungency, colour, shape, flavour, size, and use) usually classify chilli types. Despite vast trait differences, nearly all chilli varieties commercially cultivated in New Mexico belong to one species, C. annuum. Other species are the tabasco (C. frutescens) and habañero (C. chinense).  Several hundred chilli varieties of C. annuum are grown in New Mexico. These include bell, New Mexican, Jalapeño, Cayenne, Yellow Wax, Ancho, Pasilla, Mirasol, and De Arbol, but most of New Mexico’s commercial acreage is limited to a few varieties.

Did you know?

New Mexican green and red chilli represent two developmental stages of the same fruit. First, the plant produces green fruits, which turn red if the pods are left on the plant. The red fruits are usually dried and ground into chilli powder (paprika if non-pungent). New Mexican green chilli is roasted and peeled for fresh consumption, canning or freezing. The flavour of green Chilli is completely different from red chilli because the pods are picked at a different age.  Green chilli cannot be transported long distances for fresh consumption because its quality will be reduced during shipping. Red chilli and paprika are dehydrated and sold as whole pods or ground into powder.

Paprika is currently used as colouring in sausages, cheeses, fruit gelatines, drugs, and cosmetics, as well as for improving the feather colour of flamingos in zoos! Good-quality paprika has high red colour, which is most important, and no pungency. Because paprika is defined as a product, not a pod-type in the U.S., it may be obtained from any one of many types of C. annuum. The word “paprika” means “Chilli” in Hungarian.

Chilli evolution

Chilli is native to the Western Hemisphere and probably evolved from an ancestral form in the Bolivia/Peru area. The first chillies consumed were probably collected from wild plants. Apparently the indigenous peoples were growing chilli plants between 5200 and 3400 B.C., which place chillies among the oldest cultivated crops of the Americas.

It is not known exactly when chillies were introduced into New Mexico. Chillies may have been used by the indigenous peoples as a medicine, a practice common among the Mayans.  By the time the Spanish arrived in Mexico, Aztec plant breeders had already developed dozens of varieties. According to historian Bernardino de Sahagùn, who lived in Mexico in 1529, “hot green chillies, smoked chillies, water chillies, tree chillies, beetle chillies, and sharp-pointed red chillies” existed.

Chilli fruits are considered vegetables when green, a spice when red and dried, but are berries botanically. Fruit characteristics (i.e., pungency, colour, shape, flavour, size, and use) usually classify chilli types. Despite vast trait differences, nearly all chilli varieties commercially cultivated in New Mexico belong to one species, C. annuum. Other species are the tabasco (C. frutescens) and habañero (C. chinense).  Several hundred chilli varieties of C. annuum are grown in New Mexico. These include bell, New Mexican, Jalapeño, Cayenne, Yellow Wax, Ancho, Pasilla, Mirasol, and De Arbol, but most of New Mexico’s commercial acreage is limited to a few varieties.