If you see a Rocoto pepper, you might think it’s an ordinary bell pepper although a little smaller in size. But be careful: these are not for the faint of heart. They are much hotter than a mild, sweet bell pepper! Here’s what you need to know about this delicious but little-known hot pepper.
The Pepper at a Glance
While Rocoto peppers (also known as loco peppers) look like small bell peppers on the outside, when you crack them open, you’ll find something few other peppers have: black seeds. Another unique feature is the furry leaves. The exterior walls of these peppers are thick. They are usually about the size of a golf ball, and varieties can be orange, red, and yellow.
Like with all peppers, the different colors represent different stages of the ripening process. Thus, it’s vital that if you purchase a pepper (or pick your own) at the stage you want it, you put it in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it. This will stop the ripening process.
Rocoto peppers most frequently grow in South America where they originated. Because they were first cultivated thousands of years ago, it’s one of the oldest domesticated peppers to this day. The Rocoto is a crucial ingredient in Peruvian and Bolivian dishes.
These plants can grow very tall, up to 15 feet. Even the plants themselves are gorgeous because of their purple flowers. While these peppers won’t thrive if temperatures get too low, they also require a climate that doesn’t get too hot. Compared to many other peppers, these plants have a higher tolerance for cooler temperatures.
Some people confuse this pepper with the Manzano. While these peppers come from the same variety, they are two different hot peppers.
Eating and Cooking
The Rocoto pepper can get pretty scorching hot, but it can vary widely on the Scoville Scale—anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 Scoville Heat Units. This makes some Rocoto peppers on par with the habanero in terms of heat! In spite of its intense heat, the Rocoto has also been called sweet and fruity. Some have described it as having an almost grassy taste.
Rocotos are used in a wide variety of cuisines including soups and stews, sauces, pasta dishes, and hot sauces. They are also popular when stuffed with ground beef, a specialty dish known as Rocoto Relleno. Because the exterior of these peppers is so hard, they are typically eaten fresh rather than dried. They are extra juicy! Rocoto peppers also make a delicious spice to add big flavor to all kinds of dishes when ground up.
Like with other peppers, Rocoto peppers are more than just delicious. They are a fantastic source of vitamin A, fiber, and calcium. Each Rocoto pepper has more vitamin C than an orange!
Experience them for Yourself!
If you’re looking for a new way to spice up your cooking, the Rocoto pepper is a great way to do it. It’s a sure-fire way to bring some major heat!