Unfortunately the markets only provide few varieties of chillies, so few that most of the foodies I know have no concept of the many thousands of varieties that are out there. This means if I want to taste something remarkable I must grow it myself.
My vegetable garden is feeling small as there are so many amazing vegetables that I can't buy and have to grow myself. I grow everything organically and I save seeds with my kids.
This year I grew very few chillies. One that I grew this year was Aji Amarillo (Capsicum baccatum) which is a lovely chilli from Peru.
Aji Amarillo e translates to "yellow chilli", aji means chilli, amarillo means yellow. When dried it is known as Aji Mirasol (which I am told means "looking at the sun" but I don't really understand how).
|Aji amarillo - many were longer than this|
Aji amarillo is said to be one of the best tasting chillies and is commercially grown in Peru and a few other countries. I once read a description of the taste of aji amarillo that said: "If there were a chillie to taste like sunshine, this would be it". This had me curious. If they meant that it was as hot as the sun then I was not interested (or was I...), if they meant the taste made me smile then I was very interested. So I bought some seeds and grew them.
Aji amarillo grew like any other variety of chilli. They grew rather tall and when the time was right they were covered in flowers. Once they started to ripen the tall plants were very productive. I didn't count how many pods they set but it was a lot.
|aji amarillo, some ripe others not ripe|
Like any other variety of chilli, aji amarillo are perennial but do not like frost. I was undecided if I should over winter any aji amarillo plants this year. Then we had a week or two of temperatures of -5C or below. Surprisingly enough the plant in the photo survived this frost. The new leaves were burned by frost, and the plant was not thriving, but it survived.
We then had a few warm days, then more frosts, I think one night the temperature dipped below -8C. I am reasonably sure the plant is dead now.
|Aji amarillo in the frost|
Now that we are nearing the end of winter I still have some aji amarillo pods ripening in a basket on the kitchen bench. One thing I love about aji amarillo is that if I don't eat them in time they dry themselves. Once they start to shrivel I just leave them for a while, and they dry nicely. I have not had any get moldy or go bad yet.
|aji amarillo, if you don't eat them fresh they sun dry|
|Aji amarillo starting to ripen from the tip|
Aji amarillo are around 30,000 to 50,000 scoville heat units. To put this in perspective they are four to 20 times hotter than a Jalapeño. The Trinidad Scorpion Butch T chillies I also grow have around 1,463,700 scoville heat units, or 585 times hotter than Jalapeño.
Even though they taste amazing they are still a bit too hot for me. I plan to grow them again as I enjoyed their taste so much, but I would prefer something with a little less heat..
I bagged some flowers and saved some pure seed from my aji amarillo plants. If you are interested I will likely sell them, as well as a bunch of other organic vegetable seeds and perennial vegetables, on my for sale page.