Peru’s Rocoto Pepper

Rocoto Peppers (aka Locoto Peppers) are one of Peru’s hottest spices. They are a South American red pepper that natively grow on the slopes of the Andes mountain range. Rocotos are members of the Capsicium pubescens family. They are said to be the first chili pepper to be domesticated and date back to Andean origins over 5000 years ago.

Rocoto peppers are best known for their bold and hot flavor and are used with many Peruvian foods. Their size, color and heat can vary significantly. Red is its most common color but yellow brings the most heat. Rocotos have a range of  30,000 – 100,000 Scoville heat units (SHU). Which means they can be anywhere from four to forty times hotter than jalapeño peppers.

Peruvian rocoto peppers are approximately the size of a tomato and have thick side walls much like the bell pepper. But their most distinguishing feature are their furry leaves and black seeds. Interestingly enough, they also have a mild resistance to frost.

Rocoto can be eaten fresh, dried, ground or even as a paste. Rocoto paste is great mixed in your favorite sauce, sprinkled over tacos or even as a spicey steak sauce. Whole rocotos are delicious when stuffed with a ground beef mixture. This dish is called Rocoto Relleno, one of Peru’s most famous meals especially in the Peruvian city of Arequipa. There are many other rocoto recipes, as aji rocoto is a staple in the average Peruvian’s diet. Rocoto peppers can also be ground to use as a spice in soups and and to make your own rocoto salsa.

Full of vitamins A, C, E, and potassium there are many health benefits to eating Peruvian rocotos. They are used as an anti-inflammatory agent and pain reliever for rheumatism, that is if you can stand the heat.

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