Peruvian cuisine stands out for the magnificent combination of acid, citrus and spicy flavors. One of the standards of spiciness in the gastronomy of this country is the rocoto chili or, as it is also known, chili de cera or chili manzano . This fruit offers a highly valued flavor and can be consumed both fresh and in salads.
In this guide we want to gather as much information as possible about its cultivation, as well as the characteristics that most differentiate hot peppers from other chilies. In itself, both its shape and its color are quite different, although the management of its cultivation follows the standards of chili and pepper cultivation .
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ROCOTO PEPPER
The rocoto pepper or manzano pepper is by no means at the top of the spicy table, known as the Scoville scale . Its spiciness, considered between 100,000 and 200,000 SHU, is lower than the habanero pepper reference , but with a distinctive and distinctive flavor and texture when consumed fresh.
For people not used to spicy, it has a powerful level and should be consumed in moderation.
This chili is very pleasant to drink, with a pronounced spiciness but that lets you taste the polyphenols and aromas of the chili, leaving a unique flavor of the hot pepper on the palate for several minutes.
For this reason, it is widely used in countries such as Peru or Bolivia, which stand out for having a highly valued cuisine internationally , used in sauces as a condiment or chopped on meat and fish to give them a slightly spicy touch.
DESCRIPTION OF THE FRUIT
A curiosity of the rocoto chili pepper are its seeds, which are black in color and easily planted when relatively dry. Its germination power is high, although it takes a little longer to germinate than other chilies such as habanero, jalapeño or cayenne.
In terms of size, the plant is very similar to other species, with a smaller size, not exceeding one meter in height and large production of flowers in all axillary buds and stem crosses. The fruit is about 5 cm long, with a rectangular or square geometric shape, with large straight shoulders.
The ripening of the fruit is a staggered process very similar to that of pepper cultivation : green fruits at the beginning, almost when they have the final size, accumulate more antioxidants that give a yellow or orange color than can already be harvested. If we continue to ripen on the plant, it acquires a fantastic bright red color typical of the rocoto pepper and the most commonly consumed form.
All this process of development of the fruit until its optimal maturity takes, in good light and temperature conditions, about 80 days. For this reason, it is interesting to plant in early spring, germinating in a protected tray indoors if there are still not enough ideal conditions outside, especially with cold nights.
ROCOTO VARIETY CARE GUIDE
The cultivation of chili peppers is, in general, simple. There are some varieties more demanding than others, but it can be available to anyone. From here we show you which are the best conditions to develop the cultivation of rocoto peppers and to be able to consume them fresh, from your own plant.
WHERE TO LOCATE IT
Good temperatures and high lighting are needed for the cultivation of any plant of the Solanaceae family (Solanaceae). That is why they do very well in the Central and South American climate. In areas of Europe, it develops better in the Mediterranean area, with a sea breeze and more stable temperatures. The planting is done, under the open sky, at the beginning of spring, taking advantage of all the sun exposure of the summer months.
We speak of a thermal regime of between 20ºC and 25ºC during the day (it does not matter 5 degrees higher and lower) and somewhat colder temperatures, 15ºC to 18ºC, during the night. In fact, a difference of more than 10ºC between night and day guarantees an ideal fertilization of the flowers.
The hot pepper can adapt to different environmental humidity, being the ideal for a correct flowering and pollination between 50 and 65% . Higher humidity runs the risk of increasing the chances of suffering attacks from fungi in fruits, such as botrytis, anthracnose, bacteria ( Pseudomonas and Xanthomonas ). All these diseases mentioned have a difficult solution unless the environment is drier and there is good ventilation (the best fungicide and bactericide).
Good light exposure and a minimum of 10 to 12 hours of sunshine every day. That is why we talk about the fact that the rocoto pepper is grown in summer. The lack of light causes a plant with less production of stems and leaves, less green green (it does not produce as much chlorophyll), a more spindly plant with vertical growth and less production of flowers.
HOW TO SOW
The optimal germination conditions for hot peppers are to maintain a constant temperature of 20ºC to 30ºC. You must avoid at all times that there is a temperature below 15 ºC once the plant has germinated, since its growth is considerably reduced.
Keep the substrate continuously moistened, without puddling. The best way to water without dislodging the seed is to use a fine drop sprayer. In addition, you increase the humidity of the seedbed and improve germination efficiency.
It usually takes around 15 days to germinate , although many times they are advanced, depending on environmental conditions.
Soil fertility is a requirement of pepper and chilli cultivation. The hot pepper requires a dry, fertile soil with a good volume of organic matter. A soil with a part of sand favors drainage and keeps roots clean and in continuous development. Don’t forget to add renewed organic matter to the soil before transplanting your hot pepper. An ideal amount if you work the soil for the first time is to contribute 2 kg / plant of compost or organic matter mixed with the soil. This contribution will last at least 2 or 3 years in the soil, until you renew again.
If you grow in pots
, choose a mixture of 70-80% peat and 20-30% coconut fiber
or highly porous inert materials, such as perlite or vermiculite.
HOW TO WATER
Irrigation is a very important factor for our rocoto peppers. Too much causes widespread root rot and a saddened plant with drooping leaves that apparently asks for water, but the opposite is true.
In spring and summer, a maintenance irrigation is to provide water every 2 or 3 days, approximately with irrigations of 1 liter for an adult plant (> 30-40 cm in height). If it is grown in pots, a strategy to follow is to add 5 times less the volume of the container, also every 2 or 3 days.
USE OF FERTILIZERS
For a good production of fruits and a magnificent development of the plant, we have to start from a fertile soil. That is why we have recommended the use of peat, since it has a great capacity to store nutrients and transmit them to the roots of the plant.
Approximately 15 days after transplanting, we can start adding small amounts of fertilizer. Here you have 2 options: use organic fertilizers or higher concentration inorganic NPK nutrients.
As an organic fertilizer , one of the best recommendations is to provide 1 out of 3 worm humus irrigations . It contains small amounts of nitrogen, slightly less phosphorus, and a fair amount of potassium. To improve root production and increase the volume of the plant, nitrogen from amino acids is a good alternative in organic farming.
As inorganic fertilizers, you can use liquid fertilizers, incorporated in 1 out of 3 irrigations together with water, or apply granulated fertilizers that you apply 1 time every 15 days and slowly dissolve with the environmental humidity and the risks provided. An ideal blend is NPK 12-8-16 with magnesium and micronutrients. [ See product ]
The easiest way to multiply a nightshade plant like the hot pepper is through seeds. In general, the fame of all chilies and chillies makes it very easy to get all kinds of seeds and at a great price.
These have great germination power and we can find many different varieties to plant side by side.
In general, the pruning of the rocoto pepper allows us to define if we want to have 2 or 3 arms (main stems) from the formation of the cross. Basically, with fewer arms we will get fewer fruits but larger size. And with 3 arms, more fruit production and, therefore, smaller size of each of them. This is what is known as training pruning .
Subsequently, pruning is reduced to cleaning affected leaves, facilitating proper aeration and eliminating crooked, broken or aged stems.
In any case, do not be afraid to eliminate the stems that you consider unnecessary, since this makes the rocoto pepper produce new ones and renew shoots.
With pruning you will obtain the following benefits:
- Faster and more efficient collection (professional field)
- Larger and better formed fruit.
- Greater aeration reduces the presence of fungi and bacteria.
- Foliar applications are more effective.
- The greater entry of light allows a more homogeneous ripening of the fruits.
PLAGUES AND DISEASES
The pepper and all chili peppers are plants that are visited by all kinds of pests and diseases. The multitude of buds and sensitive leaves added to the good environmental weather during its plantation, makes it common to see all kinds of insects such as whiteflies, aphids, thrips and various groups of leafminers, among others.
The most common groups of sucking insects in the rocoto pepper are the following.
Aerial part (affects leaves, stems and fruits):
- Mites: red spider ( Tetranichus urticae ) and white spider ( Polyphagotarsonemus latus ).
- Whitefly : Bemisia tabaci and Trialeurodes vaporariorum .
- Trips: Frankliniella Occidentalis
- Aphids : the most common is Myzus persicae .
- Caterpillars : Spodoptera exigua, Heliothis armigera, Chrysodeixis, Autographa gamma.
To combat this series of insects, the best organic treatment is the foliar application of potassium soap at high doses (10 cc / L). Be patient because we may not remove the entire population in the first application. You need several applications 3-5 days apart to completely clean your hot pepper.
Root part (affects the roots):
- Nematodes: the most widespread genus in the rocoto pepper and, in general, all kinds of peppers, is Meloidogine .
Most pepper diseases develop in conditions of high relative humidity. Except for powdery mildew, very common in this crop, which does not need so much humidity but does need temperature.
The best known fungi and bacteria in the cultivation of rocoto pepper are the following:
- Phytoptora capsici:
- Botrytis and sclerotinia: rotting diseases that are activated in high humidity conditions and affect the entire aerial part of the plant, especially the fruit.
- Oidiopsis ( Leveiulla taurica ): quite common, forming a powdery gray hair on the underside of the leaf, with yellow spots on the upper surface. It is prevented with sulfur.
- Bacteriosis: caused by the bacteria Xantomonas campestris , Clavibacter michiganensis, and Erwinia caratovora . They need environmental humidity and their elimination is complicated, since the use of antibiotics in agriculture is not allowed. Using copper and increasing aeration is the most effective traditional formula.
To ensure a good planting, we have some interesting products that, in general, are very useful for all types of crops.
- Substrate : choose a soil, with 80% peat and a mixture of inert substances that increase its drainage and porosity (such as perlite or vermiculite).
- Seedbed with lid: advance germination by using a seedbed with a lid to increase relative humidity and optimize seedling output.
- Worm humus: indicated for organic agriculture and with a good nutrient ratio to mix with the substrate.
- Potassium soap: for foliar application if sucking insects such as whitefly, aphids, thrips or mealybug appear.
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