A Pepper with Rich Roots
Spanish moss mingles with white sand and ancient Coquina towers, this is where the US South begins to mix it up with vibes of the tropics. Old Florida is rich in history, beauty and cuisine, at the heart of that cuisine is a small orange pepper with a story of its own.
While Florida was under British rule in the late 1700’s, indentured servants were brought from several Mediterranean islands to work on an indigo plantation just south of St. Augustine. These servants became generally known as Minorcans and after years of abuse on the plantation, the strong that remained left to seek asylum in St. Augustine and with them came the Datil Pepper. These pepper plants are just as strong as the settlers that brought them to the coast of Florida, growing about two feet tall with spicy, elongated yellow-orange peppers that measure between one to three inches in length, but are filled with personality. As you will find in Old Florida, cuisine these peppers are the perfect choice for making salsa, sauces and preserves as well as cooking down beautifully in a stew or soup.
The Datil pepper takes five months to mature and loves hot morning sun but will also benefit from a little afternoon shade during the hotter months. The peppers will emerge a darker olive-green color, but quickly transform to a lime green into a yellow and eventually full orange as they ripen. Datil peppers can be enjoyed at any color stage but are worth the wait for them to turn a flavorful orange, especially if you are making hot sauce.
Plant these peppers in pots to have some fun with “overwintering”: In warmer growing regions, leave plants outside in a protected area through the winter, or in colder growing regions, plants can be brought inside to avoid extreme temperatures. At the first sign of Spring, move plants outside for early season pepper production.