The Capsicum pubescens is one of the oddest chilli families there is, I think. The name pubescens means hairy, not that the chillies are, the plant is hairy. These chillies also are called tree chillies, and are known to get over 15 years old, and as big as trees. These pubescens or Rocoto chilli plants are not grown a lot by commercial growers, and that always made me wonder.
Rocoto or pubescens chilli plants are a bit hard to grow, or at least to get them to fruit. As they really are no annual plants, the second year they will do much better. Now that is a bit hard as the can handle a very mild frost a bit, but with our normal winters they will die. So you have to overwinter them in the house. There is a trick to have them carry fruit, and that is to prune them. Cut the end of a branch when it has a good couple of flowers. What is also done, to get the fruits to colour faster, is binding the branches up, so the fruits will get more sun.
Now the plants are odd and beautiful, and some grow to be huge in one year, they start to flower early, but only later on they will get fruits. The flowers are stunning to say the least, purple and purple with white, almost bell like. I have enjoyed growing these plants, for their appearance only, what a stunning plant!
The fruits are odd too, they are huge compared to other chillies and have black seeds. This is stunning, think about a Sambal with black seeds! The burn off the fruit is different too, the heat spreads like thin oil on water, and will be all over your mouth in no time. The burn in these chillies are overall different, and people react on them in a different way. Some say they are much hotter, some say the burn is different, or both.
The structure of the fruit also is different, both in build as in mouth feel. Now as this actually is a taste report, I will get in to the the taste and mouth feel. The skin is less thick and easier to bite through, the flesh is less crunchy and much thicker than any chilli I know. Although the flesh is less crunchy, it isn't unpleasant, and has the mouth feel of a nectarine almost. It is very succulent and moist, and feels fatty when you chew it, even your mouth feels like eating something with fat.
Now this one, the Rocoto Manzano Grande or Giant Red Rocoto is not very hot, I almost think it is rather to the mild side. However if you cook with it, it feels like it is getting hotter, weird. The taste is a bit like cucumber, and some paprika, not really sweet. If you want to turn in into a pepper paste, almost everything can be used, if you take the seeds out. The fruit doesn't really have ribs or seedlists, but has walls dividing it, with a sort of heart on top. Everything is soft in it, even the heart. Fresh eaten in a salad, I would suggest using it with some black pepper and some salt, nothing more. Traditionally they are eaten stuffed and boiled, or steamed with the stuffing in it. If you have a hotter version, the traditional way to get them milder is to take the inners out, and fill them with milk. Leave overnight and use the next day. Works like a charm !
To the experts, the red Rocoto's are the least tasty ones, with a few exceptions. So the other Rocoto's coming up are really a step up, or more ! Exciting !
Bart J. Meijer