Rocotos are conspicuously interesting chili plants. The chili variety originally comes from the mountains of South America. There it was already bred by Incas in today’s Peru. With the beginning of agriculture less than 10,000 years ago, Native Americans cultivated potatoes, corn and beans in addition to chillies.
Capsicum pubescens translated would mean “chili which gets hair”. There is a fine down on the leaves. These hairs originally serve to collect the morning mist in the heights of the Andes to absorb water. Rocoto plants are irritating with many beautiful purple flowers. If the sharp pods are halved, the Rocoto surprises us again with its black chili seeds.
Rocotos are common in higher regions of South America. There it grows like a vine tendril. It is also known as tree chili because of its quickly woody trunk.
From the USA we often learn that Rocotos would be so difficult to breed. But not with us in Germany. Usually Capsicum pubescens plants need a clear temperature difference during the day (15 °C) and at night (8 °C). Such a climate can be found in the mountainous regions of Peru and Bolivia, where the Rocoto originates. These temperatures are not unusual in Germany and England.
Rocotos can tolerate cooler temperatures better than other warm-loving chilli varieties. However, frost and temperatures below 0 °C also damage Rocoto plants.
Where the botanical term “Capsicum” comes from is not quite clear. It is to be assumed however that the physician Tournefort derived the name from “capsule”. If this is so, he certainly thought of the cylindrical apple shape of the Rocoto. The fruits are unusual for chillies, but extremely tasty. Rocoto pods are considerably heavier than chillies of other species due to the large amount of flesh.
When sliced, Rocoto can be recognized by its black-brown chilli seeds. In terms of taste, the pods can be described as sour-sweet. Like Habaneros Rocotos can be very sharp, whereby their sharpness burns differently by another composition of the Capsaicinoide.
The Rocoto Manzano matures at least 3 months after flowering. You should grow Rocotos early if you want to enjoy a good harvest in late summer. With plants one metre tall, you can harvest up to 40 of the exceptional chillies.
Rocotos are popular with many breeders. Most varieties have large and heavy fruits. In order to harvest many juicy chillies you should pay special attention to a good location in the garden. It can lie in semi-shade. In another article we pointed out the correct pot size of about 10 litres.
For the hairy Capsicum pubescens varieties, a 20 litre bucket makes sense. Just as important is a climbing aid where you can tie the branches of the chili. You can best meet the requirements of the plant at an east-south corner of the garden house. There is neither too much nor too little wind movement. Look forward to many chili peppers if you can meet the location requirements.
Fruity aroma combined with the sharpness of 12,000 - 30,000 SHU makes the Manzano a favourite among the hairy chili plants. If you translate Manzano from Spanish, it means apple or apple tree. The term is apt for the plant and its golf ball of large fruits and apple shape. The taste of the apple chilli is sweet, sour, fruity, pungent and all these flavours mix to an unusually delicious taste.
American chili growers report some problems with the cultivation of Rocotos. Some of them are right. On the other hand, the climate in summer is advantageous for the chili plant. Capsicum pubescens grows even in colder weather and can even survive light frost. It likes an airy, half-shady location. A place at an eastern corner of a garden shed usually means a rich harvest. Indoors, the temperature fluctuations are often too low for the plant to really feel comfortable.
Standing air is also a problem. The hairy leaves have the task of collecting morning dew on the leaves in the mountains. A regular spraying is useful for the well-being of the tree chili.
Even if the germination rate is lower and you have to wait longer for the seeds to germinate: It is worth growing this wonderful genus.
Rocoto plants grow fast, but take a long time to form flowers and fruits. With the climate in Germany, you should start growing this variety early. It is recommended to start already in December or January. The black-brown seed coats are rough and thicker than the usual cream-coloured seeds.
Therefore a longer soaking time is recommended, in chamomile tea about 2 days. Pre-swelling seeds are placed in a growing substrate one centimetre deep. After 10 - 20 days, the Rocoto seeds should start to germinate at 23 °C. The seed should be placed in a substrate at a depth of one centimetre. Their germination rate is usually lower compared to other Capsicum varieties.
The beautiful purple to pink flowers will enrich you after a few months of waiting. It is not possible to pollinate the flowers with other Capsicum species. Genetically they are too far away from each other.
When watering, make sure that the roots are not in the water. Of course a longer drying out is deadly for the plant. The plant itself collects the morning dew with its hairs. Help it with a flower spray bottle during a longer dry period. Always in the morning and never in the blazing sun.
Lighten the plant by cutting some branches back. If the foliage is too dense, it will not form as many fruits as it could have been.
With a tomato or vegetable fertilizer you give the plant strength and food. An organic fertilizer for organic cultivation is ideal for tasty and juicy chillies. Mycorrhizal fungi can help you achieve good results in the field.
They help the Rocoto to absorb nutrients and moisture.
From time to time it is reported that leaves of chillies are consumed in small quantities. However, nightshade plants often produce toxins in the plant, for example in potato plants. Especially in Capsicum pubescens leaves are unusually many toxins. So it is better to keep your hands off them and keep pets at a distance. The alkaloid capsaicin is formed in the fruits, but this is one of the reasons why chillies have been eaten for thousands of years.
The aromatic flesh is particularly juicy, perfect for lemon juice salsa. A Peruvian speciality is Rocoto Relleno. Rocoto chillies are first cooked for about 10 minutes and then filled and baked. The filling consists of minced meat, onions and garlic. The whole is fried in olive oil and seasoned with chili powder and cumin. Cover the filling with cheese before putting it in the oven.
Rocoto Relleno is a delicious recipe and quickly prepared.
Rocotos can also be dried with a little more effort than thin-walled chilli peppers. All you have to do is plan a little more time. In the dehydrator about 12 hours. Instead of cutting the chillies in half, it is more practical to cut them into slices.
Many people perceive the sharpness of the chillies of the Capsicum pubescens species much more clearly. Rocoto have a moderate sharpness of about 50,000 to 250,000 SHU on the Scoville scale. However, the proportion of a certain capsaicinoid - dihydrocapsaicin - is higher than that of Habaneros. This makes the sharpness appear different. Some find the pungency more pleasant. The same fruits are perceived more blatantly by other chili lovers. Presumably the pain receptors react differently in different people.