Chili Pepper Madness

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Aji Chili Peppers

1,177 - 75,000 Scovilles. Also known generally as the Peruvian hot pepper, aji is the common name primarily in South America and areas of the Caribbean for chili peppers. A few popular aji are:

  • The aji amarillo, or “aji yellow” or “yellow chile,” also known as the aji escabeche, the most common pepper cultivated and consumed in Peru. It often grows from 3 to 5 inches long easily, though it sometimes reaches 6 to 7 inches, and its color changes to a deep orange when mature. It is usually hot, from 40,000 to 50,000 on the Scoville scale, with a pungent flavor. It often appears in dried and powdered forms, and finds its way into many traditional Peruvian dishes as well as some Bolivian dishes.
  • The Lemon Drop, or Hot Lemon, also known in Peru as Kellu Uchu. It comes from a vine-like bush that grows about 3 feet, and it produces few seeds. It averages 2 1/2 inches long and has a cone shape with crinkles and a color - appropriate to its Anglophone names - of bright yellow when mature. It even has a citrus flavor though its Scoville score can range into the somewhat-hot region, starting at 15,000 but climbing to 30,000. They often turn up, either fresh or smoked, in a variety of salsas.
  • The aji norteño, or “northern aji.” This variety is only popular in Peru’s northern coastal valleys, but in those areas residents claim that the pods - at 3 to 4 inches, tapering, and appearing in yellow, red and orange colors - possess a fruity flavor of moderate pungency that fits well with their sense of place and with their many seafood dishes. The hot peppers, at around 45,000 to 75,000 on the Scoville scale, are typically served fresh on the side.
  • The Peppadew ™, with a size and color approximating a cross between a round pepper and a cherry tomato. Peppadew, from “pepper” and “dew,” is actually the brand name for a piquanté pepper originating from South Africa’s Limpopo province where it is still popular, especially as a pizza topping, likely because of its taste that falls somewhere between a bell pepper and a mild chili pepper. With low heat, around 1,177 on the Scoville scale, and much sweetness, this pepper is often great for stuffing with cream, goat, feta or even mozzarella cheeses, or for using as an addition to salads, sandwiches, omelets and kebabs. It also makes an appearance in Celestial Seasonings-brand “Safari Spice” red tea.
  • Other aji peppers include the ayucullo, cereza, charapa, limo, mono, panca and pinguita de mono in Peru; the escurre-huéspedes and the lengua de pájaro in Cuba; and the chombo in Panama.

History of the Aji Chili Pepper

Aji Chili PeppersThe ají pepper has an interesting history, represented in the way that the cuisine that has most taken to this particular pepper. It is most well loved in Peru, where the pepper shows up in a variety of dishes and is often served at the table as a condiment aside red onion and garlic. The word "ají" is actually a word used in the Caribbean to refer to this particular plant, but the name became so widespread that this is what it is known as in most of the world. "Ají amarillo" literally translates to "yellow chili" in Spanish, which is the color that this pepper turns while cooked. The mature pods of an ají pepper are actually bright orange.

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