Our chile pequin plants have quickly become one of our garden favorites, even though this is the first year we’ve grown them. We discovered this plant more or less by accident, and have become, admittedly, a little obsessed over the last few months.
We wanted to try harvesting some seeds from around our house instead of buying them at the store, and were able to find a ton of seeds in packs of dried chilis that we’ve bought for making chile, salsa, and mole.
Despite supposedly having a fairly low germination rate, our chile pequins were the only pepper seeds that we harvested that sprouted, popping up happily in our egg-carton planters. We’ve currently got one in a big pot just outside the steps to our apartment, and one in our little garden plot.
Now, what’s so cool about the chile pequin plant?
Chile pequins can be grown as a perennial
We typically think of pepper plants as a annuals, meaning that they only live for one growing season. But that’s definitely not the case with the pequin. A healthy chile pequin plant can survive for years, if it has the right conditions. Even if the plant freezes and dies all the way to the ground, it can regrow from its roots next season.
It’s basically the OG pepper
Capsicum annuum var. Glabriusculum (which includes both pequins and chiltepins), is a type of pepper plant native to North and South America that may be the original plant that all of our Capsicum annuum varieties come from.
They are hot, hot, hot
Pequin peppers only grow up to about 2cm in length, but man, do they pack a punch. They average 5 – 10 times hotter than jalapeno peppers. For lovers of spicy food, they’re a must-grow plant.
They grow wild in Mexico
Chile pequins can be found growing as perennial shrubs in a pretty wide range of places in Mexico. They prefer to grow in forests, but can also survive in disturbed areas like roadsides and pastures.
The chile pequin plant is pretty drought-tolerant
They’re native to dry areas, where water is often sparse. Pequin peppers can’t handle bone dry conditions for long. Still, they require less water and are less susceptible to short periods of drought than a lot of other delicate garden plants (looking at you, tomatoes).
They make a good ornamental plant
A fully-grown pequin plant becomes a woody shrub with bursts of bright red peppers. They add some unique color to gardens in dry, warm environments. In less favorable climates, they can also survive in pots that are brought inside during the winter.
I’ve read that they can be fairly susceptible to diseases, which can make them tricky to grow as perennials. We’ll see how it goes this season, and if our pequins survive the winter. We fully intend to grow our chile pequin into a miniature tree, and keep it alive and chock full of peppers for as many years as we can. For now, we’re watching the first peppers just starting to ripen!