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The "Mother of All Peppers" Might Be Growing in Your Yard

Have you seen these peppers in bushes outside? The tiny tepin or chiltepin is the only wild chili native to the U.S. and is believed to be the oldest and hottest species of wild pepper.

I first saw it in Tarpon River at a friend's house, a spindly shrub my friend had fenced off for protection. When he bought his house, Tom knew the peppers when he saw them, since his father grew them in his childhood home near Sarasota. "What are you doing with this poor bush?" I asked him. "It looks like it's too late for this one." I was wrong.

Though the leaves were spindly and sad, the bush bore hundreds of tiny

peppers that look like shriveled holly berries. According to Slow Food, the wild harvest of these peppers "is a

seasonal ritual in many rural communities to this

day, where families make chili-harvesting camps in the mountains during

the heat of September and early October in order to harvest the wild

peppers."  Here, they're year-round.

These tiny peppers pack a ton of heat, clocking in at 50,000 to 100,000

on the Scoville Scale, about on par with a Thai bird pepper, though less hot

than scotch bonnets and ghost peppers.

Have you seen them around? What do you do with them, aside from pop them in your mouth as a very spicy snack?

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Food Critic
Contact: Melissa McCart

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