Rocoto Pepper (aka Locoto Pepper)
Rocoto Peppers are a small hot pepper native to Peru and Bolivia. Rocoto is a species of pepper that differs in numerous ways from our common peppers and chilis (C annum). The Rocoto (C pubescens) has furry, dark green leaves and blue flowers. It is a perennial plant with a tall (3 +’) shrub-like habit.
Rocoto peppers are small and have a strong resemblance to a tiny bell pepper. There are both yellow and red selections of Rocotos. The pepper walls are thick and each pepper has an abundance of black seeds. Rocoto peppers are typically hot but the heat is balanced by a rich flavor.
Rocoto peppers are cooked in numerous ways or they can be used fresh in salsa. In Bolivia they are often stuffed with cheese or meat and then baked.
Rocoto Peppers have been cultivated for hundreds of years in South America but they are largely unknown here in the United States. Recently Rocoto peppers imported from Mexico were found to be infested with larvae of the Mexican fruit fly. Imports are now limited and heavily monitored.
The Rocoto plant can tolerate cool temperatures and can grow in filtered light. While they are perennial they do need winter protection where frost occurs. Here in Northern California they require a winter greenhouse and appropriate spring pruning.
These Rocoto peppers were grown in my garden in the Valley of the Moon. They are currently enjoying the company of a flowering citrus tree in warm green house.
Seed Source: Redwood City Rare Seeds
Vegetables of Interest, 2007