We are just getting started in the world of chile peppers, but Fire Tongue Farm is proud to be part of the long and storied history of the hot pepper. Our pepper journey started in the garden. Ryan fell in love with peppers at the UCSC Farm & Garden. Orin Martin at Chadwick Garden at UCSC grows over 50 pepper varieties a year. He encourages students to experiment with different processing techniques for the sweet and spicy pepper varieties. While other students were roasting sweet peppers or pickling hot peppers, Ryan was mesmerized by the smoked pepper. This fascination led him to the creation of Fire Tongue Farm with Levon in 2015.
Chile Pepper History
The first chile peppers (from the genus Capsicum) originate from the Amazon jungle in South America and are known as chile piquin or bird peppers. Variations still exist today and are easily identified by the small bright red fruit pointed straight up in the air to attract birds. At first, birds were responsible for the spread of the plant and the spicy addition of capsaicin (the alkaloid responsible for the heat in peppers) was specially suited to affect mammals and not birds. Perhaps, from an evolutionary perspective the early pepper plant only wanted to be eaten by birds that would fly its seed to far off places and not mammals that were stuck on foot. But soon the indegenous cultures of Mesoamerica embraced the hot pepper and it became a part of their staple diet of corn, beans, and squash. Once Europeans arrived in the Americas and the pepper was transported to every part of the world. Almost instantly the pepper was embraced and synthesized into the local cuisines of every culture on the planet.
Still, the birthplace of the pepper is the Americas and the pepper holds its most prominent place in Southwestern, Mexican, and Central American cuisines. In the United States the chile pepper is most known for its use in Southwest and Mexican dishes, and its role in every hot sauce on the shelves.