Origin of New Mexico Chile

Chile vendor with ristra.

Chile found its way to New Mexico with the Spanish Colonists in 1598. The Tlaxcalan Mexican Indian servants brought the seeds with them.  Another theory is that the New Mexico’s Pueblo Indians traded produce with the Toltec Indians of Mexico. Either scenario is plausible but what is certain is that from the first encounter between Europeans and Native Americans to the present, chile has been the ideal mediator between people and culture.

Fruit Not Vegetable

The South American chile pepper is a type of fruit, not a vegetable. With help from the birds the fruit made its way to Central America. From 5200 and 3400 BC chile slowly crept up in to Mexico. Christopher Columbus introduced the peppers to the rest of the world. The explorer brought chile seeds back to Spain. Their popularity quickly spread to the rest of Europe, followed by Africa and Asia. When Columbus sampled chile for the first time the heat emanating from the fruit reminded him of black pepper and that’s where it got the name chile pepper.

Bird Delivery

According to the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico University, chile peppers originated in the lowlands of Brazil where birds developed a symbiotic relationship with the peppers. Unlike mammals, birds don’t have receptors in their mouths, so they don’t taste the heat of the chile. The bird’s digestive tract is unaffected by the heat, which makes them the perfect vessel to sow the seeds of the chile peppers. Birds consume them with no adverse effects and disperse them creating new plants.

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