We grow a dozen or more variety of chiles–hot peppers–each year. One mild chile that I’m growing this year for the second time is pasilla, also known as chile negro. Pasilla bajio has a mild but smoky flavor and can be added to fresh salsas or dried and powdered for a mole sauce. Mole is, of course, the distinctive savory Mexican chocolate sauce that, frankly, is pretty darn hard to find in our neck of the woods. Last year I only had one pasilla bajio plant, but I am planning for lots more this year, so I hope I’ll have recipes to share this fall. (I bought my seeds for pasilla bajio here. No, the company’s not paying me. I just like the seeds, plus the packages have beautiful art work.) All chiles originated in the Americas, but they spread around the world like wildfire with the Columbian exchange. As they spread, they diversified, each culture adapting them to specific use.
When you’re selecting chiles, think of the purpose and heat. Hungarian wax peppers, for example, are relatively mild, and you can pick them at green, yellow, and red. I like to use them fresh and cooked as well as pickle them. Thick-walled jalapenos hold up for roasting. Hatch or Anaheim chiles are large and relatively mild, making them ideal for stuffing and salsa. Poblano peppers dry well for sauces. Of course you could choose cayenne for red pepper flakes (although I like red peter for dried red pepper). There’s an almost endless variety of Asian peppers. You could also pick habaneros with their extreme heat and fruit essence, but, frankly, they are so hot that we are content to buy those on the rare times when we want their intense flavor. Regardless of which peppers you pick, go for a little variety, and think of how you use peppers before you buy.