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Chilli Plants: Capsicum Pubescens

The Capsicum Pubescens species is quite different from all other domesticated species of peppers and is also the least cultivated and least widespread of them all.

They are identified by their black seeds and hairy leaves (the name component pubescens means hairy). All of the peppers in this species have a distinctive capsaicinoid content, which gives them a flavour and heat that is different from all other peppers. Some of the cultivars are even hotter than the habanero! A significant trait of this species is its ability to withstand and even thrive in temperatures that are lower than the temperatures other pepper plants can handle.

Native to Bolivia and Peru, the Capsicum pubescens species is now grown throughout Latin America but is not seen in too many countries outside of that. The plants and fruit are known as locoto in Bolivia and rocoto in Bolivia. Some of the more well known varieties in this species are the Mexican Manzanos, Bolivian Locotos and Peruvian Rocotos.
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The Capsicum Pubescens species is quite different from all other domesticated species of peppers and is also the least cultivated and least widespread of them all.

They are identified by their black seeds and hairy leaves (the name component pubescens means hairy). All of the peppers in this species have a distinctive capsaicinoid content, which gives them a flavour and heat that is different from all other peppers. Some of the cultivars are even hotter than the habanero! A significant trait of this species is its ability to withstand and even thrive in temperatures that are lower than the temperatures other pepper plants can handle.

Native to Bolivia and Peru, the Capsicum pubescens species is now grown throughout Latin America but is not seen in too many countries outside of that. The plants and fruit are known as locoto in Bolivia and rocoto in Bolivia. Some of the more well known varieties in this species are the Mexican Manzanos, Bolivian Locotos and Peruvian Rocotos.

Physical Characteristics


The name ‘pubescens’ means hairy, which is a reference to the considerably furry leaves that are characteristic of this species. The plants and the fruit are easy to identify. If the plant has furry or hairy leaves, you know it is most probably a Capsicum Pubescens plant and the fruits are easily identified by their black seeds. The flowers of this species have petals that are blue-violet in colour which is another distinctive feature of this species. Most other peppers have smooth leaves, white seeds and greenish-white flowers. The flowers tend to grow singly or in pairs. Very rarely, they grow in clusters of four flowers.

The pods ripen to either yellow or red and can grow to the size of a small apple. Although they remain relatively small even when full grown, they develop very thick walls that are dense and juicy and they develop a strong, peculiar pungency. The roots of the plant lignify rapidly as it matures, giving the plant a tree-like appearance. In some parts of the world, it is known as ‘tree chilli’.

Culture and Culinary Use


Unlike most other species which are dried and pounded or processed in some way, all of the pubescens varieties are generally eaten fresh. This is because the pods are so dense and juicy, they cannot be dried easily. The smaller sized Manzanos, Rocotos and Locotos are typically used while preparing fresh salsas. Their larger sized pods are often stuffed, baked or deep fried and served as a delicacy by itself or with rounds of sweet potatoes and hot slices of fresh corn. The stuffing typically consists of cheese, pork or beef seasoned with assorted spices and condiments including garlic, onions, peanuts, black pepper and green peas.

Cultivation


One of the more notable features of the Capsicum Pubescens species is that it is isolated from the other pepper varieties in that it cannot cross pollinate with any of them. The pods take longer to grow to their full size and a long longer to mature as compared to the other species.

Seeds should be sown late winter to early spring, preferably in a warm greenhouse. The plant thrives in soil that is fertile and well-drained and in a spot where it gets plenty of sunshine. Germination time is about 3 – 4 weeks at temperatures of 20°C. The plants will continue fruiting for up to fifteen years in climates that are cool and damp.

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Founded by Sarah Hunt in 2008, World of Chillies is an online chilli shop specialising in chilli plants, seeds, gifts, dried chillies and sauces.

We are dedicated to the pursuit of everything that is hot and great.

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