The Fresno chili pepper is a medium-sized cultivar of Capsicum annuum. It is similar to the Jalapeño pepper, but contains thinner walls. The fruit starts out bright green changing to orange and red as fully matured. A mature Fresno pepper will be conical in shape, 2 inches long, and about 1 inch in diameter at the stem. The plants do well in warm to hot temperatures and dry climates with long sunny summer days and cool nights. They are very cold-sensitive, but disease resistant reaching a height of 24 to 30 inches.
History The Fresno was developed and released for commercial cultivation by Clarence B. Hamlin in 1952. Hamlin named the chili "Fresno" in honor of Fresno, California. They are grown throughout California, specifically the San Joaquin Valley.
Uses Fresno peppers are frequently used for ceviche, salsa and as an accompaniment for rice and black beans. Due to their thin walls, they do not dry well and are not good for chili powder. In cooking, they can often be substituted for or with Jalapeño and Serrano peppers. Mild green ones can typically be purchased in the summer while the hot red ones are available in the fall. Depending on its maturity it has different culinary usages.
Immature green Fresno peppers are more versatile and can be added to many types of dishes. They add mild heat and flavor to sauces, chutneys, dips, relishes, casseroles, soups, stews and savory dishes. Green Fresnos can also be pickled and eaten whole. They make an excellent garnish for Mexican and Southwestern American cuisine.
Mature red Fresno peppers provide less flavor and more heat. They are often added to salsas, relishes, ceviches, and marinades. They make good toppings for tacos, tostadas, burgers, sausages and hot dogs. They are large enough to stuff with cheeses, potatoes, seafood and meat. Specific recipes include versions of Romesco and rojo cream sauces.
Nutritional Information Since the Fresno chili is riper and redder than the jalapeño, it has more vitamins, most notably vitamin C. They are an excellent source of B vitamins, containing significant amounts of iron, thiamin, niacin, magnesium and riboflavin. They are low in calories, fat, and sodium and help to reduce cholesterol. The heat element is from a chemical compound called Capsaicin that provides a natural anti-inflammatory, pain relief and promotes a feeling of being full.
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