De Arbol chile pepper are derived from the Nahuatl word “cuauhchīlli” and this was originally documented by Francisco Hernández (1514-1587), who was a naturalist and court physician to the king of Spain. In 1570 he was sent to study the New World and he compiled 16 volumes that cataloged more than three thousand Mexican plants. On Chile De Arbol, Hernandez noted that the Nahuatl word “cuahuitl” was used to describe “wood”, “stick” as well as “tree,” so that the original meaning of the compound may have been “woody chili,” referring, most likely to the chile pepper’s pronounced woody stems.
The De Arbol chile is believed to be native to Mexico with some chile historians believe that they’re closely related to the cayenne chile while others believe they’re more closely related to the Pequin chile.
De Arbol Chiles, Capsicum annuum, is pronounced “day ar boll” and are also known as chile de Arbol, de Arbol peppers, “Pico de Pajaro” (bird beak) or “cola de rata” (rat tail). Unlike some chiles, they are called the same thing in both their fresh and dried states. De Arbol chiles are narrow, curved and a bit pointed at the tip, they’re less than ½” wide and between 2” and 3” long with a thin flesh.
Dried De Arbol chiles are often used in making ristras which are decorative garlands made of chiles strung together. Ristras are believed to bring good luck and health and are used both for cooking and as ornaments.