Chili Powder, Jalapeno
Jalapeno, Capsicum annuum, is widely considered to be the most recognized chile in the US. Pronounced “ha lay pain yo”, this chile is native to Mexico where it is known as "cuaresmenos" (meaning Lenten chile), “chile gordo” (fat chile) and “huachinango” (a specific cultivar of jalapeno that is red in color). It’s named after the town of Xalapa (sometimes spelled as Jalapa) in the Mexican state of Veracruz.
The word jalapeno first appeared in the late 1950s and translates to "of Jalapa". Comes from Mexican Spanish Jalapa (which refers to Xalapa, the capital city of the Mexican state of Veracruz) which was derived from the Nahuatl (ancient Aztec language) word Xalapan which translates to "sand by the water".
Jalapenos are one of the first and oldest cultivated crops in the Western Hemisphere, dating back to before the Aztec civilization (which thrived from 1345-1521). They originated in the region of Mexico that today is northern Mexico City. Most chiles can be dried using the sun, but not Jalapenos. Chile historians believe that the Aztecs first smoked jalapeno peppers because the fleshy, thick jalapeno was difficult to dry in the sun and tended to rot. This "smoke drying" process was initially used for drying meats, but the Aztecs found that smoking allowed the chiles to be stored for a long period of time as well.
As the Aztec empire began to rise, so did their interest in importing and exporting. Smoked jalapenos (today known as Chipotle chiles) were highly prized in trading and were also used at royal rituals. At an Aztec banquet, jalapenos were used in a ceremonial sauce that was served to the emperor and his guests. It was prepared with a mixture of chiles, tomatoes, nuts, pumpkin seeds, chocolate and caramel. This sauce was used to flavor venison, fowl and seafood.
In Mexico, only the pickled version of this pepper is called a jalapeno. The fresh green pod is called 'cuaresmenos’. In the US, it’s called a jalapeno whether its fresh or pickled.