Growing Bird Peppers
With so many varieties of peppers to choose from, including the locally grown datil, how do you choose the best one to add a spicy kick for your next sauce? Here’s a new one to consider — a fiery and flavor-packed chili often known as a Bird Pepper. The Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum has many names and is native to Texas, Florida, Central America, Northern South America and the Caribbean. In Florida, they are also known as grove peppers, given their propensity to grow wild in citrus groves throughout central and south Florida. In the Caribbean, they are called bird peppers because birds would eat the fruit and spit the seeds, thus spreading them around in fields.
A lush-looking ornamental bush, the bird pepper is a great addition to a home garden. The plants are easy-to-grow perennials that can live up to 25 or more years in wet-hot areas. Once mature, they need little maintenance. When growing bird peppers from seeds, timing for transplanting them is very important. They need to have a well-developed and strong root system in the pots prior to successful survival in the ground. While these peppers are able to handle a bit of cold weather, a freeze at the wrong time of year can be devastating.
The peppers are very small but grow abundantly and can be dried or pickled and used to add heat to salsa, soups and entrees. The heat level of the red to orange-red peppers varies due to moisture and heat, ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 units on the Scoville scale. This means a mild crop could be a little bit hotter than cayenne and a hotter crop is as hot as or hotter than a habañero.
The flavor of bird peppers is strong enough that a little goes a long way. Make an easy condiment by infusing vinegar with a handful of peppers. The flavor of the pepper is front and center. Have some fun in the kitchen creating new ways to feature these unique chilies. We’d love to see them become a staple in Northeast Florida cuisine.
Want to know where you can find bird peppers locally? Look for B and D Sauce Co. at a market near you! Or, visit them online at www.banddsauceco.com