Chile pequins are part of San Antonio’s charm, culture

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If there was a puro San Antonio bingo card, there would have to be a space for “abuela has a chile pequin plant in her backyard.” Extra bonus points if there’s also a jar somewhere in the house that serves as a convenient stash of the spicy goodness or if your abuela made you gather the peppers to bring in the house.

The chile pequin is one of those things that is a staple in lots of Latino homes, but we don’t really take the time to recognize it, kind of like manguera water. The hot pepper, named for its tiny size, doesn’t get the same praise as homemade tortillas or salsas, though it’s often used in the latter. Still, the chiles are integral to so many San Antonians meals and memories.

“It’s a cool, unique, stand alone South Texas pepper,” says James Vives, a local chile pequin expert and owner of the San Antonio-based Brushfire Farms. “Way more than enough people can appreciate it and relate to it and more importantly can connect a personal story to it.”

From hearing stories about men carrying a tin of the pepper in their shirts to talking with little viejitas in the Rio Grande Valley about the pepper, Vives says he’s able to connect with others over the chile pequin. After one woman told him that she missed having the pepper in her backyard, Vives got her address so he could send her some seeds to plant herself.

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