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Rocoto peppers, or is it Manzano?


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#1 Gabriel Lewis

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 02:09 PM

I picked up a bunch of lovely (albeit small) what I believe to be rocoto peppers at the market today. I am trying to find a little more about them, and have come across some contradictory information on the internet. One website says that rocoto and manzano are actually the same pepper, whereas another says that they are simply related. Can anyone knowledge weigh in on this?

Also, any other information about rocoto peppers is appreciated!

#2 alacarte

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 02:47 PM

I can tell you that rocoto peppers are commonly used in Peruvian cooking, often are sold in North America in jars of rosy-red rocoto paste, and can be darn spicy!

#3 lperry

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 04:46 PM

Rocoto and Manzano or Manzana are all common names for peppers of the species Capsicum pubescens. There are different cultivars of this species just like Bell, Ancho, Anaheim, and Jalapeno are all cultivars of the species Capsicum annuum. So they are the same botanical species, but not the same cultivar.

In terms of cooking, the peppers you have are common in Andean cuisine and they tend to be hotter than heck. Enjoy!

-L

#4 godito

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 06:40 PM

what lperry said is right. Manzano and rocoto are similar peppers, but rocoto is the more comon one in the Andes. You can find it from Colombia to Chile, but they are crucial ingredients in Peruvian and Bolivian (they call it Locoto over there) cuisine.

They ARE hot as hell, however, I've purchased some in Chile that were more aromatic than anything.

They are the hot pepper of choice when making ceviche.
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#5 saltshaker

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 08:57 PM

I'll disagree on the "hot as hell" assessment. There are a lot of peppers out there I wouldn't bite into on a bet, rocotos aren't one of them. We eat them raw, on the side of Peruvian dishes, all the time. They're actually a bit on the fruity-aromatic side, and certainly hot, but not overly so (every now and again I've run into one that was particularly hot, but those seem to be the rarity).

Here's a dish we recently made for dinner, and you can see we weren't shy about the rocotos!

http://www.saltshake...-tuna-casserole
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#6 Gabriel Lewis

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 10:41 PM

Thanks for all the helpful replies guys. I have to say I'm curious about saltshakers admission that he finds rocotos not all that hot as I bit into one today and it was pretty damn hot. And this is coming from someone who has a decently high tolerance for spicy - I regular use 10-15 thai chiles in a dish that serves 2-3. Perhaps they vary quite a bit? This website indicates that manzano peppers have a scoville rating of thirty to fifty thousand and another I found said twelve to thirty thousand, which is compared to jalapenos at five to eight thousand. Additionally, a friend of mine who is a peruivan chef has also told me that they are very hot...

I am also a bit confused because most sources seem to indicate that they have black or dark seeds, which is not the case for my peppers. However I am pretty sure that they are rocoto as a peruvian friend of mine identified them as being rocotos and they look very much like all the pictures I have found of rocotos on the net, albeit is difficult to make a comparison times as my peppers are very small (doesn't get hot enough up here). Must rocotos have dark/black seeks or are there exceptions?

lperry would you be willing to elaborate a bit on cultivars or perhaps point me in the direction of some good info on cultivars? To me bell, poblano (isn't ancho the dried form of poblano), jalapeno, and anaheim are all very different peppers, and if this is how rocoto is related to manzano I would be inclined to say that they are different peppers as well.

#7 saltshaker

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 01:29 PM

Gabriel,

Rocotos definitely have the black or dark brown seeds, at least in mature pods. It's one of the defining characteristics, at least for those of us down here. If we get some that have white seeds, we return 'em to our supplier - they're probably a related cultivar rather than actual rocotos.
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#8 lperry

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 03:41 PM

Black seeds are characteristic of Capsicum pubescens and no other cultivated pepper species. If yours don't have black seeds and fairly thick flesh, you have another species. Do you have photos?

"Cultivar" is shorthand for "cultivated variety." Over thousands of years, humans selected for traits that were culturally important to them, so we now have many pepper cultivars that are typical of a region and its cuisine. Many different cultivars can be bred from the same species of plant. For example, consider the species Brassica oleracea which has been bred into the cultivars kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts (and many others). All these plants are very different, but they are derived from the same species. They have simply been modified by human selection. What you consider to be different peppers are often different cultivars but not different species of plants.

Does this explanation help or confuse even more?

-L

#9 Gabriel Lewis

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Posted 26 August 2006 - 11:09 PM

Your explanation helps nicely L, thank you.

I guess I had never really considered it before but using the biological classification of species to differentiate between different plants doesn't make a whole lot of sense. After all there are hundreds of "different" types of chiles and yet they only stem from a handful of different species.

It seems the peppers I bought aren't rocotos at all but I am curious as to what they are. They are shaped physically similar to rocotos and have quite an intense heat, but lack the distinctive dark/black seeds. I guess I'll try asking the vendor I bought them from but I am somewhat doubtful as to whether or not they'll know (unfortunately I don't have a digital camera).

Thanks for the help everyone!

gabe

#10 piazzola

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 07:20 AM

As far as I know rocotos are very hot and they have think flesh much like jalapenos but much hotter they also have back seeds which I keep to plant for the next season.
Anyways I buy few at the time and make some salsa de aji and use it for South Asian dishes as well I like the thick flesh types of peppers and rather buy them fresh and not in jars.

#11 andiesenji

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 08:42 AM

Rocoto/Manzano peppers can vary greatly in heat, depending on how they are grown and also in the type of soil they are grown. They are often described as having an apple flavor, it is quite distinctive. They also do have the black seeds.
Many of the hot peppers develop more heat if the plants are stressed, that is, if they get less water during the period of early development after pollination and the heat can vary greatly from plant to plant.
I have grown quite a few and have found that the heat can even vary from fruit to fruit on the same plant, with the smaller peppers having much more heat that the larger.
The flavor of Rocotos lends itself nicely to fruit salads and blends beautifully with mango, peach, pineapple, papaya, etc., for sauces.
A little goes a long way, but I have found that soaking the finely chopped peppers in milk for 20-30 minutes, then rinsing well with cold water, will mitigate the heat somewhat but retain the flavor.
One of my neighbors, originally from Grand Cayman, taught me this method of reducing the heat in Scotch Bonnet peppers.

Rocotos also are easy to grow in pots and will keep growing if you bring them inside (or place in a greenhouse and it doesn't have to be large) for overwintering and they will continue to bloom and bear fruit. You do have to pollinate them with a fine sable brush in the winter when bees are not active. I have maintained one Rocoto, a Habanero and a Guajillo for more than 5 years.

If you ever need any specific information about peppers, you can consult with the members of the
Chile-Heads list.
Subscriptions are free and you can elect to receive it as a digest.

There is also the
Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University.

and for the most extensive database on Chiles check out
Graeme Caselton's site
click on "database" and then click on the letter of the alphabet for the chile in which you are interested.
A caveat! One can spend a lot of time on this site, the list of recipes is extensive and there are some great ones. I recently made Phil's Creamy White Chili which was a huge hit, made with chicken for people who do not eat red meat. I recommend it without reservations.

Edited by andiesenji, 27 August 2006 - 08:44 AM.

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#12 lperry

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 11:55 AM

I guess I had never really considered it before but using the biological classification of species to differentiate between different plants doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

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On the contrary, as someone who works in ethnobotany, I can tell you with conviction and a great deal of personal experience that it is the common names that are more often confusing. Scientific names are subject to rigorous rules and peer review and are equivalent across languages and cultures, while common names often change from one village to the next within a space of a few kilometers. I would argue that either system is useful in its own context.

Andie, I've also overwintered chili peppers with great results. The South American varieties often wouldn't flower for me the first year, even when I was in Florida.

#13 Gabriel Lewis

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 12:10 PM

Thanks for all the info Andie, I am planning on doing a little balcony garden next year and maybe I will try some chiles as well, though the climate is far from ideal here I think.

Lperry, I realize the importance of scientific names but I was speaking strictly from a culinary perspective. I hardly think you can use the scientific classification of species as means to differentitate between chiles for cooking if some species have tens or more cultivars that in my eyes are completely different chiles. Unless there is some lower level of classification that incorporates cultivars or the like that I am unaware of?

#14 lperry

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 12:31 PM

Unless there is some lower level of classification that incorporates cultivars or the like that I am unaware of?

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There is. This page might explain better than I can.

Species Help Sheet

#15 andiesenji

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 05:46 PM

I guess I had never really considered it before but using the biological classification of species to differentiate between different plants doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

View Post


On the contrary, as someone who works in ethnobotany, I can tell you with conviction and a great deal of personal experience that it is the common names that are more often confusing. Scientific names are subject to rigorous rules and peer review and are equivalent across languages and cultures, while common names often change from one village to the next within a space of a few kilometers. I would argue that either system is useful in its own context.

Andie, I've also overwintered chili peppers with great results. The South American varieties often wouldn't flower for me the first year, even when I was in Florida.

View Post


To successfully overwinter them you have to cut back on fertilizer when the night temps drop intot he 40s, sometimes I pinch all but a few of the actively growing branches back, then repot, also trimming back some of the peripheral roots.
I move them into the greenhouse in October here, because it is still fairly warm during the day and cooling at night.
I begin fertilizing again in late November and start using the grow lights so the plants have a minimum of 12-14 hours full light per every 24. the plant begins putting out new leaves and stems and by mid-December is blooming. I also have a fan in the greenhouse to discourage fungus during the rainy season. Sometimes the fan is enough to stir the pollen but I usually transfer some from flower to flower on the related plants to avoid hybrids. The open pollinated varieties do not need more than one plant, they are self-pollinating.
Or you can put two plants of the same species in the same pot.

The "bird" peppers of the southwest and Mexico will go dormant in the winter but come back each spring.
Both Tepin (Chiltepin) and Pequin wild varieties, are gathered by Native Americans in Arizona and New Mexico. I have visited friends on the reservations who gather them and some of the plants are ancient and have formed large complex groupings. They are called bird peppers because birds feed on them. Apparently birds have no capsaicin receptors.

Edited by andiesenji, 27 August 2006 - 05:54 PM.

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#16 piazzola

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Posted 28 August 2006 - 06:11 AM

Interesting comments andiesenji
Thank you

#17 lperry

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 08:43 AM

Thanks for the advice, Andie. I have one pepper plant that I've kept over ten years, and another that is going on five now. I will admit to never fertilizing them. I do put Osmocote in the potting mix, but that's all they get. I may try it next spring. -L

#18 cliveb

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Posted 21 September 2006 - 04:20 PM

Rocoto peppers are common over here in Venezuela; you can find red, green or yellow varieties. They vary widely in heat. I've had some which have blown my head off, others which barely made me jump. They are also known as "Manzano or, over here " Mongo" peppers. Thick meaty flesh and BLACK seeds.

I've made them stuffed with meat sauce. :blink: