Greenhouse production of the famous St. Augustine hot pepper, the datil (Capsicum chinense var.)

Nicole L. Shaw, Daniel J. Cantliffe, Chad M. Hutchinson, Steven A. Sargent, David Dinkins


Datil pepper (Capsicum chinense var.) is well known throughout St. Augustine, FL where it has been cultivated since the 1700s. Liked for their unique sweet-hot flavor, datil peppers are used for cooking, hot sauces, relishes, and other condiments. Mainly grown in backyard gardens, numbers of plants grown for commercial purposes are unknown. Seeds are not commercially available, but found via the internet, festivals, Master Gardeners, or as family heirlooms. Four selections were cultivated under passively ventilated greenhouse conditions in Citra, FL. Seeds were sown 26 Jan. 2006 and transplanted into 11-L pots filled with pine bark on 15 Mar. Plants were grown at 2.2 plants/m2 until 2 Aug. when plants were cut back to 30-cm height and re-spaced at 0.5 plants/m2. Plants were harvested 6 times from 8 June to 31 July at 2.2 plants/m2 and 4 times at 0.5 plants/m2 from 26 Oct. 2006 to 3 Jan. 2007. Marketable fruit number/m2 was similar between densities, but significantly different between selections and ranged from 234 to 392 fruit/m2. Interactions between plant density and selection for marketable fruit weight/m2 and cull number/m2 were significant. ‘Super Datil’ produced nearly twice the fruit weight at 0.5 than at 2.2 plants/m2; other selections were not affected by plant density (yields ranged from 0.8 to 1.4 kg/m2). ‘Super Datil’ was determined not to be a true datil pepper. A selection named ‘Norm’ (handed down through several family generations), was included on 17 May 2006 and harvested three times (4, 26 Oct., and 13 Nov. 2006). ‘Norm’ produced a yield nearly three times greater than the other four selections in the trial at 998 fruit/m2 and 2.7 kg·m–2.

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Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc.     ISSN 0886-7283