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Chilli Plants: Capsicum Baccatum

The Capsicum baccatum 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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Capsicum baccatum consists primarily of the South American cultivars known as Aji’s. The most well known variety in this species is the Aji Amarilllo or the Amarillo chilli. Other cultivars and varieties included in this species are Brazilian Starfish, Peppadew, Bishop’s Crown, Wild Baccatum and Lemon Drop. The species is noted for their uniquely shaped fruit, which are often likened to tulip flowers.

The chillies have a smoky-fruity flavour that is characteristic to this particular species and cannot be found or reproduced in any other chilli species. The heat of these pods is as varied as it gets and can range from totally mild to fiery, scorching hot. Interestingly, even in the chillies that have a significant amount of heat, the wings are still mild and sweet, giving the fruit a taste that is complex and complete without being overpowering. It’s a unique experience, somewhat like tasting two chillies in one.

The history of the Capsicum baccatum is as unique as the chilli itself. It was the first and only species that was actually brought by the colonizers to South and Central America instead of the colonizers taking the plants back with them.

Physical Characteristics


Baccatum literally translates to ‘berry-like’, which says a lot about the physical appearance of the pods in this species. The fruits are squat with a height ranging between 1"- 2" and a diameter of 2"- 3". The chillies mature to bright colourful, wrinkled pods of oranges, yellows and reds.

The plant itself is lanky and grows to a total height of about 4 - 5 feet with an approximate spread of about 3 feet. The pods are erect when young and they become more pendant as they mature.
Culture and cuisine

The Capsicum baccatum species, particularly the Aji Amarillo chilli is so intrinsically associated with Peruvian cuisine it is almost revered as part of its condiment trinity together with garlic and red onion. Although the name literally translated means ‘yellow chilli’, the mature, uncooked pods are actually bright orange in colour and the yellow colour only appears when the chilli is cooked.

Aji Amarillo is one of the primary ingredients in several dishes and sauces of the Bolivian and Peruvian cuisines. In Bolivian dishes the chillies are usually dried and ground before using and in Peruvian dishes they are used fresh. Some of the more popular dishes from these two cuisines that incorporate the Aji Amarillo are the Fricase Paceno from Bolivia and the Huancaina sauce and Aji de Gallina from Peru. These peppers are also very often just stuffed, grilled or roasted and eaten as a delectable snack.

In the Moche culture, vegetables and fruits were often represented in their arts and Aji Amarillo peppers were typically one of the main components. They are also often dried and hung from the Christmas tree as an alternative decoration.

Growing Capsicum Baccatum Chilli Plants


Cultivation of this species tends to be slightly little more complex as compared to other varieties mainly because the plants grow very tall and gangly and the fruits take an inordinately long time to ripen during which time, the plant tends to lose many of its flowers.

The plant grows best when planted in a location where it gets the full blast of the sun.

As with other chilli plants it is important to wait until the soil is warm and the night temperatures above freezing before planting the seedlings or moving the plant outdoors. During its growth stages, it requires only moderate watering and the soil temperature should be maintained above 18°C to ensure good germination. Too much water or too low temperatures can kill the young plant.
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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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