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A Pepper for the Fog

Rocoto Pepper

Rocoto Pepper

I think I’ve mentioned before that our garden is in one of the foggier micro-climates of the Bay Area, so a lot of the classic summer veggies are hard for us to grow. A few things like peppers and tomatoes are too important to give up on, so we’ve tried different varieties to find out what might work best. We seem to have found the right pepper for our garden. We’ve been getting a bumper crop of peppers from our Rocoto, Capsicum pubescens, sometimes known as the Peruvian Tree Pepper.
It doesn’t seem to need the heat that other peppers do. It’s our third year since we bought it as a 4″ at Annie’s. The first year I just potted it up, no fruit. The second year, after I transplanted it into the garden in the spring, it looked unhappy for several months, and then recovered at the end of the summer to put out maybe two dozen small peppers. This year we’ve had all-we-can-eat peppers since mid-June, and the plant shows no sign of slowing. We’ve been harvesting them green, when they have a nice pepper flavor and medium heat; three or four green ones in a sauce make it noticeably hot, but not fiery. A lot of people wait until they turn red and very hot, but not me. My stomach still remembers a plate of stuffed and baked ones that I ate in Peru thirteen years ago.
So far, I’ve just let it grow without pruning or shaping, and it has become a leggy seven footer without much ornamental presence. I’ve seen bushier, self-supporting ones in sunnier sites, but ours definitely needs the bamboo poles to keep it upright.

Our Rocoto staked to a Bamboo Tepee

Our Rocoto staked to a Bamboo Tepee

There’s a devoted website, rocoto.com, by a Bay Area enthusiast, with recipes and photos and info about growing them.

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4 Responses to “A Pepper for the Fog”

  1. August 10th, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    lostlandscape (James) says:

    I try bell peppers every other year or so, and hot peppers almost every year. The peppers that would do well five miles inland suck here at the coast. Rocoto might actually do well here if it’s successful for you.

  2. August 11th, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    ryan says:

    It would probably do well. Cold winters seem to be the main limitation, and you should be even better than us on that front.

  3. August 14th, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Brad says:

    Mine barely grew its first year, but went crazy the second and third. It had a lot of frost damage, but its first and second winter but recovered. Sadly after its third it didn’t.

  4. January 9th, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    DryStoneGarden » Blog Archive » 2010 Miscellany says:

    […] enthusiasm as well, but we had some good harvests later in the year that got me back into it. The rocoto pepper was our biggest success this year. It’s still producing peppers. Our Sidewalk The Ruth […]