Hung on the kitchen fireplace mantel, a ristra of hot peppers looks beautiful, and is said to bring good health and good luck.
But mostly it just brings good food.
They’re often just used for decoration these days, but stringing chiles began as a way to dry and store them. And a string of chile peppers in the kitchen makes it easy to add spice to any meal.
I grew up in a house with all sorts of dried plant material hanging from rafters and tucked into baskets. It was all purely for decoration. My house today has a similar profusion of plant material, but for more utilitarian purposes. Ristras are convenient ways to dry and store peppers, garlic and onions. They’re also very convenient hanging in the kitchen.
Do I make sure my ristras look nice? Do I string twice as many peppers as we can realistically use, so that I can pair the ristras on each side of the mantel? Yes, of course—they do make nice decorations, after all.