The Rocoto Pepper (Capsicum pubescens) is a plump pepper that looks more like an apple or pear than a long, stringy pepper-like jalapeño cousin.
In fact, its attributes might make the Rocota the less attractive cousin with its black seeds, hairy leaves, and thick flesh - much like bell pepper.
On the Scoville Scale, that measures heat, it falls between 50,000-250,000 - can be mild, but definitely take you by surprise and fall more on the hot side of the scale.
When you first taste a Rocota Pepper it can have a sweet, citrusy flavor. This makes the pepper great to use in salsas, salads, and even stuffed. However, this sweetness lasts a short time as the heat starts to kick in - rapidly. The Rocoto Pepper has a unique heat profile - as hot as habanero and even hotter than a serrano chile.
The heat is sharp and you can feel it in your entire mouth, lips, and throat. The heat lingers in your mouth. The pepper’s heat can be reduced if soak in water overnight. To bring out its full breadth of flavors, dry roasting the Rocoto Pepper is best.
The Rocoto Pepper is one of the oldest cultivated peppers. Commonly known as Manzano chile (means apple or apple-shaped in Mexico), its origins are found in the Michoacan highlands in Mexico. Its unique growing conditions make it unlike most chiles - able to withstand cold temperatures, but not freezing.
The Rocoto Pepper plant can grow for nearly 15 years and stand up to 10 feet tall giving it the nickname, tree chile. The plant also blooms star-shaped flowers alongside the peppers. It’s a great plant to grow in your garden or balcony as it helps to ward off insects.