Chiltepin pepper plant, originally from the wild, growing in the Tohono Chul Park landscape (Burgess photo)
It’s chile time in Baja Arizona! The local goodness of our Sonoran Desert foods can assert itself tastefully—yea, vehemently!—into other imported cuisines. Tia Marta here to share a wonderful new wrinkle to celebrate this holiday season, by wedding the local “vehemence” of our chiltepin pepper with an imported tradition.
In decades since the 1940s, industrial ag and interstate grocery service have tried to make Baja Arizona into a food colony (but we are tastefully fighting back). Fossil fuels transport outside traditions to us that we do cherish and that help keep families together, like the many food traditions we celebrate at Tucson Meet Yourself in October each year. At the top of the import list for Yuletide is one borrowed from East-coast First Nations. (See Renewing America’s Food Traditions by Gary Paul Nabhan, UA Press, for more.) This imported gift from Native People of Southern New England and coastal New Jersey bogs that I’m referring to for holiday feasts is naturally the cranberry. Thank Goodness for trade routes!
Ingredients for Chiltepin-Cranberry Relish–my own Meyer lemon and chiltepines, plus transported cranberries, agave nectar, and red onion
Local and import come together sensationally in my recipe for a raw, vegan Chiltepin-Craberry Relish.
Yes, it is picante, sweet and tangy—and delicious! It was inspired by amazing cook and baker Cindy Burson of Country Harvest who won People’s Choice at a fair with her version. (Cindy’s Southwest treats can be enjoyed at Sunday’s Rillito Farmers Market and Wednesday’s Green Valley Farmers Market.)
Dried chiltepines to use in the cranberry relish–They also make a great snack, great flavoring for Tom’s Mix SW Heirloom Beans, and super in any salsa.
Muff’s Fresh and Easy CHILTEPIN-CRANBERRY RELISH RECIPE
3 cups fresh organic cranberries, washed
1/2 medium red onion, diced
8-12 dry chiltepin peppers for picante palettes, depending on “heat” desired (4-6 chiltepines for less picante). Start with less, then add more later if higher “vehemence” is needed.
1/2 cup local raw honey or agave nectar
2 Tbsps lemon or lime juice
1-2 Tbsps tangerine rind or Meyer lemon rind, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional ingredient)
In a food processor, pulse all the fresh ingredients and juice at least 6 to 8 times, keeping the texture coarse.
Chill in a covered bowl in refrigerator overnight or at least 8 hours, for time to meld the flavors.
Stir the mixture; do a taste test. Add more honey or agave nectar, or chiltepines as needed for the sweet toote or picante palette.
Spicy Chiltepin-Cranberry Relish can keep its freshness, flavor, and color in the frig for at least a week.
Note texture of fresh relish–not too fine. (Tarahumara and Mayo spoons like this for serving can be found at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store)
Even the conservative palette will relish this holiday condiment—perfect for Christmas dinner or festive smorgasbords. Chiltepin adds a glorious kick to the sweet tart of cranberries, with a non-lingering wave of excitement to the tastebuds! You will find Chiltepin-Cranberry Relish as a fine complement not only to turkey or ham. Try it with bagels and cream cheese. Use it as a savory side, or with a salad, on any holiday platter. It’s a celebration of East meeting Southwest—Enjoy!
Here I’ve used Spicy Chiltepin-Cranberry Relish served as creamcheese-on-rye canapés
We harvest chiltepines one by one as we need them, from our own chiltepin plants. Birds appreciate our chiltepin bushes as much as we do! Some of our plants I propagated from wild chiltepines in Arispe, Sonora, and Baboquivari. Some, purchased at Tohono Chul Park’s Chiles and Chocolate event, were propagated by experts Charles DiConcini and blog sister Linda McKittrick from Sierra Madrean plants. To buy healthy, productive plants for your own garden, be sure to put the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Valentine’s Plant Sale on your calendar for February.
Fresh-picked mature chiltepin peppers–Caution: do not rub eyes after picking chiltepines!
To source fresh dried chiltepin peppers for cooking and eating, visit the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store (3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson or http://www.nativeseeds.org) or stop by Cindy’s Country Harvest booth at Rillito Farmers Market Sunday. You can see live chiltepin plants in fruit at Tohono Chul Park and at Mission Garden in Tucson.
Chiltepin-filled Heart Ornaments are available at NativeSeeds/SEARCH Store for holiday decor and spice into the New Year!
Another great idea: A couple of chiltepines added to Southwest Heirloom Bean Tom’s Mix makes it a perfect potluck crowd-pleaser. You can find SW Heirloom Bean Tom’s Mix at NativeSeeds/SEARCH, or for online gifts at http://www.flordemayoarts.com.
Tom’s Mix 14-Heirloom Bean Mix makes a perfect gift from the Southwest–made spicy with chiltepines! Find them at Rillito Sunday Farmers Market, NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, Tohono Chul Museum Shop, Wiwpul Du’ag at San Xavier Plaza, and the UNICEF Store in Monterrey Village, Tucson; or online http://www.flordemayoarts.com