Want hot chiles? mild peppers? powder? paste? Across from the old Spanish mission in Tumacácori, you'll find it. For decades, family-owned and family-run Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Co. has been providing flavors in Southern Arizona. There's even a mini Western Museum...and of course, you can sample the sauces and salsas...
The Santa Cruz valley, between Tucson and Nogales, is one of the oldest continually-farmed regions in the U.S.; for four thousand years, native peppers, beans, squash, cactus and corn have been cultivated, even here in the desert. Then, beginning in the 17th century, Spaniards introduced Mediterranean plants: grapes, figs, pomegranates, figs, quince...and cattle ranching. A small garden on the grounds of the Tumacácori mission across the road from the Santa Cruz Chili Co. still grows some of these heirloom crops.
A visit to the mission and spice market make for a great afternoon or day trip from Tucson.
Go south from Tucson on I-19 for about an hour. (Note: I-19 is marked in kilometers, not miles; quirky.) Take Exit 29, turn left, then turn north on the old highway, and you'll see the big chile-pepper sign on the left, just before you get to Tumacácori mission National Historical Park. The store is closed on Sundays.