Rocoto Tree Chilli
The Rocoto pepper is perhaps the most unique commercially available pepper available, largely due to the isolated region of South and Central America this pepper grows in. Often difficult to source in areas outside north western South America and the southern regions of Central America, the Rocoto is very hot.
In Melbourne, Rocoto is one chilli plant that can be grown all year round. Whilst severe or successive frosts can damage the plant, it usually recovers sufficiently to grow even bigger the next year. Eventually it will be the size of a large bush and you may have to cut it back with a pair of large clippers to deter its sprawling habit. It will most likely produce more chillies than you can use.
Cultivated in Peru and Bolivia, this pepper his believed to date back thousands of years to the Inca culture. It’s unique appearance is reflected in the translation of the Peruvian name Manzano into English as apple, a common nickname given to this pepper is tree pepper because of the tall shrub that climbs and divides to a unique looking pepper plant.
Taste and Smell
The Rocoto is a thicker walled pepper, much like Bell Peppers. It’s very juicy and when cut in half almost resembles a tomato with black seeds. Rocotos have almost a pine flavor and pack a punch. When cut open, they give off a distinct, fruity, almost sweet aroma. The thick walls of this pepper make it a great pepper to stuff and cook with.
There are many uses for Rocoto peppers in the traditional cookery of the South and Central American regions of the world, including as a component of many traditional sauces, such as Huacatay. The Rocoto pepper can be found in different colors and shapes, with varying degrees of heat associated with specific varieties, which includes the Rocoto Longo variety from the Canary Islands. Also available are a red, yellow and unique pear shaped variety grown through South and Central America.
You can find the recipe for the above dish on the Karikuy Blog.
One of the oldest peppers cultivated by humans in the history of farming, research has shown the people of Peru and Bolivia have produced the Rocoto for thousands of years without the pepper moving in a large scale out of this region of South America. Small pockets of cultivators of this extremely hot pepper can be found along the entire western coast of South America and throughout Central America.
Often referred to as the hairy pepper, the Rocoto grow on a shrub with hairy leaves that make it easy to identify. The other main characteristics of this pepper are its black seeds and unusual shape that most closely resembles a bell pepper, although some South and Central American communities believe the pepper more closely resembles an apple. The Rocoto is a small pepper with thick walls to the vegetable, which have often seen it compared to the bell pepper in physical characteristics. Despite its small size, this pepper carries a large kick in terms of heat and is rated as very hot by most pepper experts. Because production and cultivation of the Rocoto has remained close to its natural home in South and Central America the pungent heat and physical shape of the pepper has not been altered by cross contamination from other pepper varieties.
This article originally appeared in Pepperheads For Life