When I lived in Austin I had a friend with somewhere around 80 acres of land in the Texas Hill Country west of San Antonio. We’d stay in a crude cabin on the property, generally in the fall when the weather was cooler. We’d wander the property and see what lived where and what was growing in the fields and brush.
While I saw lots of interesting things there, two experiences stand out.
Early one morning in the pre-dawn light I saw a jaguarundi slip into the brush along the fence line of a field – surely at the northernmost of its range and still my best wildlife spot.
The other strong memory I have is being led to an innocuous looking bush filled with little dry red pods – a chili pequin plant. It, too, was at the northern part of its range. My friend picked a number of them and that evening, appropriately enough, we made chili and those little red pods provided the heat.
Lots of heat.
That wasn’t my first farm to table moment. For many of us, that comes from eating muffins that your mom made from the blueberries you picked. But because it was, for me at least, unexpected and, let’s face it, so very Texas, the act of picking the chiles and using them in that evening’s meal has always stuck with me.
I’ve made a point to grow chili pequin plants over the years. Seeing them always takes me back to that one spot, out there in the mesquite and live oak.
Author: Tom Halicki