capsicum_baccatum2Also known as Nepalese Bell, Chapeau de Frade (friar’s cap), and orchid pepper, this unique pepper from Brazil is one of a group of peppers known as Aji’s that are native to the Peru and Bolivia where they have grown for 2,500 years and were favored by the Incas. It is a member of the nightshade family, Solonaceae, that also includes eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes. The fruits of biretta vermelha are typically about three inches wide and shaped like the four cornered cap worn by cardinals, hence the common name. Although the shape first catches the eye, the taste is one of the pepper’s best quality, with its flavor of hops blossoms. The fruits have a Scoville rating like that of cayenne pepper although the hotness can vary with the plant and the individual pepper.

Aji (Capsicum baccatum) including biretta vermelha are tall lanky tender perennials up to five feet tall and tolerate light frosts. The flowers are white or cream colored enhanced with yellow or tan spots on each petal. The fruits pods are erect at first becoming pendent as they mature, and   vary in shape and size depending on the cultivar. Plants need full sun and fertile, consistently moist, well-drained soil.The fruits are used in a variety of ways; stuffed, baked, or eaten raw.  They are especially good in stews or in Bahia style sauce.The genus name, Capsicum, comes from the Greek word kapto meaning to bite and refers to the heat of the fruit.   The species name, baccatum ,comes from the Latin word meaning berry like, or with fleshy pulp.

By Karen