Chile Pepper Parade

There's a changing of the guard at Season's gate later this week, with autumn officially kicking off the evening of Friday, Sept. 23.

Like it or not, it's the home stretch of summer, the last opportunity to savor warm-weather crops that soon will be a winterized memory. Get'em while they last -- tomatoes, eggplant, corn, melon, peaches and peppers. Throughout this week, I'll pay tribute to a few summer produce hangers-on; today is all about chile peppers. Below, a chile sampler found at a few area farm markets over the weekend:

Cubanelle pepper. (Kim O'Donnel)


This mild yellow-green pepper looks like an elongated bell pepper. Can be roasted, grilled and fried. Try it on top of pizza, in sandwiches or in salads, raw or cooked. A good bet for chile first-timers.

Poblano pepper. (Kim O'Donnel)

If you've had chiles rellenos, you've eaten a poblano pepper. These shiny hunter green babies can morph into shades of purple-brown. Stuff with cheese, rice, herbed breadcrumbs, veggies.
Medium to low heat.

Jalapeno peppers. (Kim O'Donnel)

Available in shades of green and red. Medium heat. Kitchen versatile; can be eaten raw (as part of pico de gallo) or cooked - be it grilled, roasted, fried and stuffed. Flavor can be somewhat vegetal. Smoked, it becomes a chipotle.

Cayenne peppers. (Kim O'Donnel)


These pencil-thin chiles are known more for their use dried and ground. Fresh, they are versatile, easily diced and thrown into
Soups, curries, stews and sauces. Flavor feels like direct heat; these are hotter than jalapenos.

Habanero peppers. (Kim O'Donnel)

These heart-shaped heart throbs of extreme chile lovers, come in shades of green, red and yellow/orange. Can easily be mistaken for Scotch bonnets, another hot number. Fruit flavor. A little goes a long way in the heat department. This is my chile of choice when making curries. Proceed with caution; seeds and fumes are highly irritable to skin.

But now I need your help. I'm having trouble identifying the two red peppers, pictured at right. Can you lend a peppery hand? And while you're at it, share your favorite ways to use chiles in the comments area below.

mystery peppers

Mystery peppers: Can you help identify? (Kim O'Donnel)

By Kim ODonnel |  September 18, 2006; 12:08 PM ET Farmers Markets , Seasonal Produce
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The longer one might be a Chile de Arbol and the shorter could be a Mirasol. The website has a hot peppers section that includes pictures of a ton of different peppers & flavor descriptions. Hope that helps :)

Posted by: Mary | September 18, 2006 1:34 PM

Hey, Kim...

I found another website that might help: From that website, the first pepper (on top in the photo) looks like it could be ACHAR, described as "A Cayenne type pepper from India. Plants produce a multitude of 3 to 4in long by 0.75in wide pods which taper to a point. Pods mature from green to deep red and are mildly pungent. Used in Indian Cuisine." Don't know about the second pepper. Most of the photos on the website show much more tapering at the blossom end, or more curling (or less), or a "nubby" appearance.

Posted by: Angie | September 18, 2006 2:17 PM

More info on the habanero. Scotch bonnet is a cultivar:

Posted by: Pepper Joe | September 18, 2006 2:20 PM

top one looks like a jalapeno
bottom one looks like a serrano

Posted by: houston | September 18, 2006 2:23 PM

The top one could be an anaheim that's gone red (usually they're green), though it would have to be a small one (if that's the same size plate as in the other photos).

Usage comment: usually you see either "chile" or "chili pepper", but rarely "chile pepper".

Posted by: aeschylus | September 18, 2006 3:07 PM

Also, autumn kicks off on the *morning* of the 23rd, not the evening.

Posted by: aeschylus | September 18, 2006 3:10 PM

They both look very similar to varieties of anaheim or hungarian wax peppers to me. There are so many out there though it's hard to say - here's an online database:

Posted by: Rosslyn | September 18, 2006 4:34 PM

Re favorite ways to use, here are a few:

Lightly roast a whole jalapeno in your gas stove flame and then scrape the skin off. Cook it whole with whatever else you're cooking; it lends a nice smoky chile flavor to the whole dish. Whoever wants the heat can take some jalapeno at serving time.

A quick and easy meal I've been enjoying once in a while: simmer a chicken breast in Trader Joe's "Mojito" simmer sauce with a de-seeded poblano or cubanelle and some greens. Serve over rice. Eat the chile too.

Chopped cubanelle or anaheim is tasty in cuban-style black beans. I use garlic, onion, celery seed, dill seed, oregano, and a little vinegar in mine.

Posted by: aeschylus | September 18, 2006 6:09 PM

Great chiles can impart great flavors as Kim has pointed out. I use many different peppers for many different occasions:

1. Habanero: Great in salsas. I find the Habs add a wonderful flavor to tomato and avocado based salsas. Surprisingly much better than jalapenos if you can stand the heat.

2. Thai Chili peppers: Absolutely wonderful and packed with flavors that are ideal for sauces (esp. asian -style) and stir fry. Be careful these little ones possess nearly as much heat as the Habs.

3. Serrano: These little buggers are great for grilled meat and chicken. I haven't found a peper that works as well with most cuts of steak.

Along with the fresh varieties like these try the many many many chilies that typically come dried in our region like arbol, pequin, and guajillo. Try drying your own, grinding in a mortar & pestle, and mixing flavors for greater depth of flavors. Making your own powders is great for rubs and sauce and marianating additives.

Posted by: MMMtasty | September 19, 2006 10:41 AM

Where does one find those Thai chili peppers? I want to make curry but want to make the flavor as authentic as possible. It seems that the only peppers available in grocery stores are in the jalapeno/poblano/serrano vein.

Posted by: cathedral | September 19, 2006 1:23 PM

There's a little Thai grocery in Silver Spring; I think it's on Bonifant or the next street down, close to Fenton. They should have them. I've gone there for kaffir lime leaves and galangal.

Posted by: aeschylus | September 19, 2006 1:36 PM

I've purchased both mystery peppers at Whole Foods. Don't know the names myself, but the cashiers always ring up the top one as a red jalepeno. The bottom one also comes in yellow and orange,and the last time I bought was rung up as "canary" pepper.

Posted by: Pepe | September 19, 2006 1:53 PM

Thai Chili peppers can be found in any asian market. In VA or MD check Hanh ah Reum or Super H Mart (same company). In Va there are places everywhere. Look at any of the hundreds of korean run grocery marts in Fairfax county. There are Thai grocery stores on Columbia Rd near the Cinema and Draft house, Maple Ave (aka 123) in Vienna, off Backlick road in Springfield right next a hidden Thai food gem (House of Siam). And of course there is the almighty and beautiful Wegmens that has everything at excellent prices and excellent quality. If you are making Thai curry you should, also, explore the premade pastes by "Maesri". Normally I do not advocate premade (anything) over homemade but when it comes to Thai curry pastes this stuff is great without the few hours of roasted, grinding, and blending. It is actually used by many excellent thai restaurants. This is just a base from which to work and not the onl needed ingredient as you probably know. Be aware that the quality of fish sauce can vastly improve your thai cooking. There are almost as many different types of fish sauce as there are brands of bottled water. Tiparos is an excellent brand available in almost all asian markets.


Posted by: MMMtasty | September 19, 2006 7:32 PM

Not to sound too geeky, but if you take pictures of food or for documentation in the shade or late in afternoon or early in the morning your get a heavy cyan cast to your images. Try inside near a window with natural light coming in through the window. Trying to discern which peppers can be difficult with such a heavy cyan cast. (fyi Red and Cyan are complimentary colors that cancel each other out. ie red + cyan = mud)

Posted by: photogeek | September 19, 2006 7:38 PM

Photogeek: Thanks for the lesson. I try to get it right, but appreciate your comments!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | September 20, 2006 2:01 PM

One quick use of a habanero:

Dice a hab up very fine and mix it into any sour-cream based dip you like (I've even used store bought french onion, when I feel lazy). The chile perks up the dip with a nice while the heat is moderated by the sour cream. This failing can be fixed with the addition of *more* chile, of course!

Posted by: Brent | September 20, 2006 4:11 PM

Kim: also putting something in the pix for scale would be helpful.

Posted by: aeschylus | September 20, 2006 4:33 PM

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