Our History

Fire Tongue Farm’s History

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.

The Chile Pepper’s Medicinal History

For centuries the hot pepper has been used by indigenous people as medicinal, but is only recently being acknowledged by modern medicine. Studies are beginning to show hot red peppers provide many medicinal properties. Studies have shown that ripe, red chile peppers are particularly rich in vitamins A and C, carotene and other antioxidants. They reduce levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood and that smoked Jalapeño peppers (Chipotles) were “particularly effective”. Chile pepper topical creams are now used for treating arthritis pain. It is very exciting to hear about new research on chile peppers and their health benefits.

Mostly though, chile peppers are special because of the spice and flavor they add to our food. We hope you try some of our peppers soon!