Friday, November 4, 2011

PEPPERS OF BRAZIL - Little-Beak Peppers (Pimenta Biquinho)

If you love the flavor of hot chili peppers, but have problems with their spicy "heat," then a variety of chili pepper from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais might just be the solution to your problems. Besides being hot, chili peppers have a fresh, fruity flavor that improves the flavor profile of any dish they're used in - but the flavor can be masked by the heat of the pepper. Sometimes for any number of reasons you might not want a spicy dish and so the normal solution is to eliminate the chilis entirely. With the Little-Beak pepper (pimenta biquinho in Portuguese) you can still get the flavor your want - it's just the spiciness that will be missing from whatever you're preparing.

Surprisingly, the biquinho pepper is a cultivar of the Capsicum chinense pepper, which makes it the same species as the fiery habanero pepper, one of the hottest in the world. As the heat in this species is a natural defense mechanism, botanists think that the biquinho is the result of selective cultivation - choosing only the seeds from the least-spicy plant to cultivate the following season. Over time the naturally-occurring heat of this chile has been eliminated in the piquinho cultivar.

Biquinho peppers are small, round and either a brilliant scarlet-red or sunshine-yellow, with a small beak-shaped protuberance hanging from the end. The plant makes a beautiful ornamental plant, and many biquinho plants grace Brazilian gardens and yards - not to be harvested for eating, but for the beauty of the plant and its fruit.

The most common way that piquinho peppers are eaten in Brazil is when they've been conserved in a vinegar solution and served as a garnish or as an appetizer with drinks. However, there are other ways to use biquinho peppers - they make a marvelous pepper jam or jelly, with none of the heat of most red-pepper jellies. We've seem them used to garnish cocktails such as a tangerine caipirinha. Or fresh biqiunho peppers can be used to perk up almost any soup, stew or braised dish.

In our next post, we'll publish a very Brazilian recipe for conserving biquinho peppers - one that can be adapted to almost any variety of chili pepper.

4 comments:

  1. Ah yes! I love these. There is a great restaurant near my place in Santa Teresa where they put a single preserved biquinho in the middle of their fish croquettes. It's a nice touch - really adds a little zing to all the mild creamy goodness. But like you say, without the heat.

    I had thought these were the same as what we buy in UK as Peppadew (usually sweet, sometimes stuffed with cream cheese or feta) but on further investigation I think they use a slightly different variety.

    Looking forward to that recipe!

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  2. I tried these for the first time in a magnificent dish, Torrismo de Barriga at Casa Cheia in Belo Horizonte. Delicious :)

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  3. Oi... eu moro aqui Em Toronto e gostaria de saber se é possível achar a pimenta Biquinho na América do Norte... Canadá ou EUA. E como eles chamam essa pimenta aqui. Quais as possíveis marcas... etc. Muito obrigada e parabéns pelo blog.

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    1. Sinto muito, mas eu não conheço nenhuma fonte na América do Norte para pimentas biquinhos. Eu vi website vários que vendem as sementes, por isso, talvez a melhor idéia seria a de cultivar algum biquinhos si mesmo. Se você não é um jardineiro, eu acho que você vai ter que trazer umas biquinhos para Toronto, se você visitar o Brasil. Obrigado por seu comentário.
      JAMES

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