Thursday, October 11, 2012

Harvest Ingredient 10: Serranos

Though serranos look a lot like a mini Jalapeno and although they are a member of the Capsicum annuum species (one of the largest of the roughly 4 species of "hot peppers"), it turns out that they are not that closely related to Jalapenos.  One needs only grow them side by side in a garden to see that.  Jalapeno plants look almost identical to bell pepper plants; it is only when they set fruit that you know them for what they are!  Serrano plants, on the other hand, are easy to identify, not just that they have a much more upright growth pattern, or that the leaves are much more narrow, or even that the plant is a different shade of green, but because they are....fuzzy!

They are native to the region of Mexico now known as Puebla and Hidalgo and are called by this Spanish name of "mountain" because they are native to the mountainous regions of those modern states.  Despite their name, they do not need high altitudes to grow properly.  In fact, they are relatively easy to grow and tend to be disease free.  One thing that they do love are hot temperatures!  They are not frost tolerate, but can over-winter, despite that they are listed as annuals, if they are kept covered during cold nights or grown in pots that can be moved.  I had one plant for 2 1/2 years once.  They are still used in their native ranges to give serious fire to the local mouth burner salsas that are preferred there!  They are also used a great deal pickled.  I cannot even begin to extol the virtues of pairing these up with chopped fresh fruit in salsas, especitally strawberries!!

Serranos rate on that infamous scale of hotness that is Scoville at 10,000 to 25,000.  That shows the extent to which the spiciness of the chile varies from condition to condition.  This is one of the most popular chiles in all of Mexico; far outweighing the Jalapeno, which is a Veracruz speciality there.  The states of Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Nayarit and Veracruz grow and send about 180,000 tons of serranos a year, some of which come here to the US. They are heavy with seeds and are not easy to seed (it's not impossible), so are usually used with the seeds chopped up with them.  To some groups, like the Mixtec, seeding them is almost sacrilege!  Not to be confused with the Serrano people.


Regular Serrano cultivar on sale at Dallas market
Commercially dried ripe serranos AKA Serranos Seco

Serranos in various stages of ripening and color variation from green to red and colors in between

Karneval Serranos

Heirloom Tampiquena Serrano

Serrano Huasteco in the middle.  The Huasteco are an highly independent Maya speaking group.

Sinahuisa Serrano seeds from Yoeme  (Yaqui)  weaver in Sonora MX via  Native Seed/SEARCH

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