Unique characteristics of Capsicum Baccatum
Literally translated, “Baccatum” means berry-like. This is a great way to remember one of the best ways to differentiate this Capsicum variety from others, as the pods have a physical appearance that is—if not quite like that of a berry—certainly more berry-like than others.
The pods of the Capsicum Baccatum are smallish and squat, with an average height ranging between one to two inches and a diameter of about two to three inches. When mature, the chilies have wrinkled pods in vibrant, colorful shades of orange, yellow and red.
Growing to a total height of four to five feet, the plant itself is tall and lanky with an average spread of about three feet. When young, the pods are erect. As they mature, they gradually become more pendant.
Peppers of this variety
This Capsicum species consists mainly of South American cultivars known as Aji’s. Specific pepper varieties include:
- Aji amarillo
- Aji panca
- Lemon Drop
- Brazilian starfish
- Bishop’s crown
- Wild baccatum
Just as Capsicum Annuum varieties range from totally mild to relatively hot, so do peppers of the Baccatum species. They don’t reach the heights of Capsicum Chinense (like the scorching habanero and well above), but they certainly can surprise in heat, especially the aji amarillo (30,000 to 50,000 SHU) which can be up to 20 times hotter than a jalapeño.
Typical flavor similarities
While the level of heat varies widely among peppers of this species, they do share an incredibly unique and complex flavor that is at once smoky and sweet.
Even in the hottest peppers, there’s a taste that is surprisingly sweet. The only way to describe this distinctive flavor is to say that it’s almost like eating two peppers at the same time – one fiery and one sweet – creating an intriguing overall flavor that is both bold and very eatable. This, too, has berry-like undertones.
Capsicum Baccatum originated in ancient Peru, particularly the aji amarillo chili. An interesting and unique fact about this Capsicum species is that it was the first and only species of pepper to be introduced to (and subsequently cultivated in) South and Central America by Spanish colonizers. With all other varieties, the opposite has been true.
Growing essentials – What to know before you grow
- If you’re a novice grower or just wish to do a bit of dabbling, the Baccatum species is not the one to start with.
- Notoriously finicky and complex in its precise growing needs, Capsicum Baccatum takes time, patience and –ideally—experience to cultivate successfully.
- Plants grow quite tall and gangly, so it’s important to have the space necessary for these pepper plants to thrive.
- Compared to other species, the fruits take an inordinately long amount of time to fully ripen.
- For best growth, seeds need to be planted in a location where the full blast of the sun will be on them throughout the course of the day.
- Before planting, it is essential that the soil is very warm and night temperatures consistently above freezing.
- To ensure good germination, soil temperature should be maintained at a level above 64 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Be sure to water only moderately during this plant’s growth stages. Excess watering, as well as low soil temperatures, can quickly and easily kill the delicate young plant.
Photo By: Manuel CC 2.0