A ristra is an arrangement of dry chilis, usually hung by string. Ristras are popular in pepper-producing areas like the Southwest.
The custom of hanging bright red chili ristras began hundreds of years ago as a method of preservation. Drying the chilis and putting them onto a ristra, Spanish for string, was the only way people could save them for consumption after the harvest. Nowadays we can rely on freezers, but ristras, often with a small lime at the end, continue to be used decoratively.
Use today’s Word of the Day: What Makes Food Spicy?