The word "Chiltepin" is believed to be derived from the Aztec language (Nahuatl) combination word "chilli" + "tecpintl," meaning "flea chile," an allusion to its sharp bite.
That word was altered to "chiltecpin," then to the Spanish "chiltepín," and finally Anglicized to "chilipiquin," as the plant is known in Texas. We have settled on a non-accented "Chiltepin" as the English term for the plant and fruit. Its botanical name is Capsicum annuum var. aviculare.
Although the Chiltepin plant's average height is about four feet, there are reports of individual bushes growing ten feet tall, living twenty-five to thirty years, and having stems as big around as a man's wrist. Chiltepins are resistant to frost but lose their leaves in cold winter weather. New growth will sprout from the base of the plant if it is frozen back.
The Americans swear that it is exceedingly healthful and very good as an aid to the digestion. " In fact, even today, Chiltepins are used--amazingly enough-- as a treatment for acid indigestion.
Most experts believe the Chiltepin, also called
Tepin, is the original wild chile - the plant from which
all others have evolved. It is a tiny round berry slightly
larger than a peppercorn. It is very decorative and bright
scarlet in color and, despite its high heat level, it
is attractive to wild birds, who helped to distribute
it across the prehistoric Americas. Other name include
Chile Mosquito, Chile de Pajaro, Chile Silvestre or Tecpintle.
One ounce of this dried pepper with seeds removed will
produce a detectable hotness in 50,000 ounces (over 300
gallons) of salsa! Heat level is 8 on the scale of 10.