By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America
I’m a whiner when it comes to hot peppers. I try to wish away my pain and continue to torture my taste buds. This week, while visiting St. Augustine, Florida, I tried again. I sampled the Datil Pepper, an herb nearly exclusive to the northeastern Florida city. As hot as habaneros (Scoville 100,000 – 300,000), these little orange-yellow horns are unique because they’re a bit sweet and fruity.
I wanted to know what sweet and fruity meant, so I tried Datil B. Good 2nd degree burn sauce. It was fruity and sweet up front, but the burn certainly followed. With a low-level of datil in the recipe, I was safe.
Datil peppers only grow commercially, according to my sources, in St. Augustine, Florida, in the United States. They seem to love the combination of soil and climate in this 450-year-old historic city. And, those who’ve tried to propagate the plants elsewhere get short plants with few peppers, says Sherry Stoppelbein, owner of Hot Shot Bakery & Café and maker of Datil-B-Good condiments. Sherry, who is known affectionately as the Duchess of Datil says her pepper plants grow up to five feet tall and might produce as many as two bushels per plant.
All those peppers become various products in Sherry’s commercial kitchen. The most popular is the ketchup-like sauce in four levels of heat – 2nd degree burn, 3rd degree, 4th and 5th. She also uses datils in BBQ sauce, salsa, mustard, jam and pickles.
Around the corner from Hot Shot, The Spice & Tea Exchange sells straight datil powder as well as myriad seasoning blends that include a pinch of punch. The pepper powder is good in chili, chowder, hot wing sauce and more.
Tracking the datil backwards is a bit of a mystery. Some suggest that it came from China, hence it is considered a variety in the botanical species Capsicum chinense. Still others suggest it came from Spain or Africa. But, the most likely origin, says Chef Sherry is South America – Peru or Chile.
To get your own supply of datil or datil products find Sherry at Datil B. Good or visit The Spice and Tea Exchange. Uncertain where to start, try Spice and Tea Exchange’s hot cocoa mix with datil.
As for me, I couldn’t bring myself to try one of Sherry’s chocolate-covered datil peppers. Maybe next time.