What do Datil peppers have to do with Real Estate? Well nothing really, but they do have a lot to do with culture here in St Augustine. It is hard to talk about the food without understanding what goes in the food and the Datil pepper is the key to understanding.
What is a Datil pepper? according to Wikipedia:
A datil pepper is a fruit of the genus Capsicum, which also includes bell peppers, jalapenos, habaneros and all other fruits known as peppers. The datil pepper in unique because it is extremely hot, similar to a habanero, but also sweet and fruity. The name of the datil pepper is derived from the Spanish for “date,” another type of fruit.
To the people of St Augustine, it is the key ingredient to the cuisine. You can not have sausage pilau (per-lo), ford hooks, or even fried shrimp without the Datil pepper. No I am not going to explain pilau or ford hooks today, let me know if you are curious.
The Datil pepper has been cultivated by the Minorcan descendants living in St. Augustine since the 18th century. They grow on a bush that is about 4′ high and are very susceptible to cold weather. I have tried growing them in other parts of the Country and always fail, although I have heard some people who have had limited success. The plants and seeds are hard to come by if you don’t live here, but almost everyone here either grows them or knows someone who does.
I find they add a real depth of flavor, intense, to food when added. The heat happens as well, and can be controlled by taking the pepper out once the desired heat is acquired. I use in almost all of my cooking dishes, especially if a hot pepper is called for in a recipe. The flavor is quite unique and the only way to explain it, is well you have to try it. Next time you are down in St Augustine, make sure you ask the local restaurants about dishes with Datil peppers.
Why is this a hot topic today, well I just harvested my first batch of peppers. The best thing is they store well in the freezer, so I can enjoy them all year!
Want to see what they look like? Here is a picture of one of my mine: