I have to admit sometimes I think about buying plants just for their names : ) Last June I saw Chili Pequin, Capsium annuum on the plant list from Treesearch Farm and I had to research it. It is in the Solanaceae (Potato) Family. It is goes by the name Texas Bird Pepper and several other names. I found it is a native perennial hot pepper that grows in a compact bush form with nice green leaves and tiny little peppers. I bought two for each of our crew and two for our raised bed garden. These started out as two 8″ tall plants in one gallon containers.
Right now the whole bush is covered in various stages of buds, flowers, tiny green peppers and ripe red peppers. It is clearly very happy in our raised bed. It gets morning to mid day sun and then it is in the shade of the house. This bed gets regular water. It is best if watered near the base of this pepper plant so the water goes directly to the roots and the leaves remain dry. We use drip irrigation in this bed and we keep it evenly moist. We have had to water less this year with all the rain we have gotten. Like most if not all herbs and vegetables you should not let the bed get bone dry or leave it too wet for too long. Irregular watering can lead to blossom drop and root rot.
While rare it is possible to find Chili Pequin growing wild in Texas and other part of the southern United States. In Texas, Chile Pequin is found in moist, semi-shaded locations from the Edwards Plateau and Coastal Plains to South Texas. According to the site Foraging Texas these plants don’t like the the full Texas sun. This explains whey they are so happy in our morning sun only garden. They can grow in the shade of another plant if you don’t have a shade garden. They are said to be hottest when they are young and green then lose a small amount of fire when they turn red. I can not tell you; I was not brave enough to try one : )
I think they are also very ornamental and I can imagine using them in a perennial bed. They grow about 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The tiny white flowers are so sweet and now that the peppers are turning red they are even more attractive. They bloom from May through October and then rest for the winter.
It would be lovely as a mass planting arrangement too. It is deciduous so will rest and will also reseed itself. Bees and butterflies like the flowers and some birds like the peppers. Mocking birds find them a delicacy. The tiny peppers are among the hottest. Almost 10 times hotter than a Jalapeno, the tiny Pequin packs a punch. Chile Pequin rank 40,000 to 60,000 on the Scoville scale or 9-10 on a heat scale! You can add them to any recipe that you want to spice up much as you would use commercial hot sauces and pepper sauces. They are also good dried or pickled.
You can propagation them from seeds or cuttings. Let the seeds dry out and store them in a cool dry place until you are ready to plant them. Chili Pequins are perfect to grow in containers and would be a nice plant to grow on a balcony or patio. They will die to the ground if we have a freeze but will come back fresh in the spring. If we have a mild winter you can prune them back in the spring to refresh the plant.
Chile pequin is a close relative of jalapeno and bell peppers. The seeds and ribs contain most of the capsaicin. You can use them to make salsas, hot sauces, vinegars and oils, a couple of these tiny chiles dropped into a pot of soup will liven it up on a cold day! We had some waxy peppers of unknown name from our co-op farm share so Shawn decided to make salsa. I read Thomas Jefferson first obtained seed of the Bird Pepper in 1812 from Captain Samuel Brown, who was stationed in San Antonio, Texas. Jefferson recorded planting this pepper in pots and in the kitchen garden in 1814, according to the website Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. They referred to it as McMahon’s Texas Bird Pepper.
Let me know if you want me to send you some seeds, seriously, I will dry some for that purpose : )