If you are lovers of spicy food, surely the chile de árbol will catch your attention. It may not be the spiciest of all, but it certainly doesn’t fall short. Don’t let the name confuse you, it is not a chile that falls from the tree, yet it is very popular in Mexican cuisine.
In this article we will explain what is chile de árbol, why does it get this name and what are its characteristics. In addition, we will comment on how spicy this variety is. I recommend that you continue reading if you want to know more about this vegetable.
What is chile de arbol?
When we talk about chile de árbol, we refer to a variety of chili from the genus Capsicum. It is a vegetable native to Central America and Mexico. It should be noted that It is one of the dried chilies that are most used in Mexican cuisine, especially for making sauces. It can also be eaten fresh, although it is less common. Like most chilies, it has a strong, spicy aroma.
And what does this curious name come from? Well, it really has a very logical explanation. Plants of this variety tend to reach taller heights than others on average, reaching up to 1.2 meters high. At this point it should be noted that it is not a tree. The chile de árbol is actually a herbaceous plant or a type of shrub. This variety also receives other names, depending on the region in which we are. They are the following: Rat tail, bird’s beak, Alfilerillo pepper, Bravo pepper, Eagle pepper (cuauchilli) and San Juan pepper.
There are two varieties of chili that can be found all over the world, called cayenne and bird’s eye. Both are very similar to the chile de árbol, although the latter is native to Mexico. In fact, It is very common to confuse these three varieties. There are some theories that say that one of these species derives from the other, but it is not entirely clear. In addition, there is a type of chile de árbol protected with a DO (Denomination of Origin). It is the Yahualica chile, originally from Yahualica in Jalisco, and that is one of the 16 denominations of origin that exist in Mexico.
Characteristics and cultivation
Now that we know a little more about the chile de árbol, let’s talk about some of its characteristics. This fruit has a triangular shape and is quite elongated. It usually measures between seven and ten centimeters long, while its width ranges from one to four centimeters. Initially it is green in color, but as it matures it turns red. After the drying process, its color becomes brighter and more intense, even darkening. In addition, your skin becomes smoother and finer.
As for the origin of the chile de árbol, it is believed that it could be the region called “Los Altos”, which is located in Jalisco. On the other hand, the main cultivation of this variety takes place in the northern Altiplano and in El Bajío. The states involved are Aguascalientes, Nayarit, Jalisco, Zacatecas and Sinaloa. In order for the chile de árbol to germinate, it needs a temperature between 18ºC and 32ºC. Ninety days after planting these vegetables, the fruits can already be harvested.
The flavor of this variety is usually smoked with a touch of walnut, that is, with a slight flavor of nuts, such as walnuts. It is a fairly spicy variety, reason for which it is highly appreciated in combination with other dried chilies to create sauces. It can also be added to some stews to give it a little more flavor. In addition, we can find chile de árbol powder in some supermarkets.
At the culinary level, the chile de árbol is used in many red sauces. The ingredients and their preparation vary depending on the region and even the home. It is quite common to add, apart from the chile de árbol, garlic and green tomatoes, all well mixed and blended with salt and water. Starting from this base, a macha sauce can be perfectly created by adding peanuts and/or sesame seeds. Red sauces can also be made by combining with other dried chilies. This is for taste! And in the kitchen we can be creative.
Other names by which the red sauce is known, consumed mainly in the center of the country, It’s taco sauce. It is known like this because it is widely used to accompany tacos, a very popular meal in Mexico. It is a tortilla, usually made of corn, that is rolled up and introduces different ingredients, such as meat, vegetables and sauce.
How hot is chile de arbol?
Let’s go now to a very important question: How hot is the chile de árbol? To do this, we must first know how the pungency of these fruits is measured. In order to achieve this, the so-called Scoville scale was created. This method measures how much Capsaicin the food in question contains. Capsaicin is a chemical element found in chili peppers that gives them their characteristic heat. In many varieties, where there is more capsaicin is in the seeds and in the veins inside the fruit. In the case of chile de árbol, it has between 10,000 and 30,000 Scoville units, which is considered hot to very hot. To get an idea, we are going to put the five hottest chili peppers according to the Scoville scale:
- Pepper X: 2.800.000 – 3.180.000
- Death Strain o HP56: 2.900.000 – 3.000.000
- Dragon’s Breath: 1.900.500 – 2.480.000
- Carolina Reaper: 1.569.300 – 2.220.000
- Naga Viper: 1.300.000 – 2.000.000
As you can see, there are much hotter chili peppers than the one from the tree. It should be noted that many varieties with points on the Scoville scale as high as They are usually hybrids created specifically looking to increase their level of pungency. Although we are very spicy lovers, we must remember that excess is bad. Eating too spicy can cause significant gastroenteritis.
I hope this information about chile de árbol has been interesting for you. If you have tried it, you can tell us about the experience in the comments.