Heat level: 5 - 8 (about 2,500 - 50,000 SHU)
General info: Ají is the common name for Chilean chillies, especially in Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. These can be different types and varieties. In most cases the species Capsicum baccatum is cultivated there, but also some varieties of the species C. frutescens and C. pubescens are called "Ají".
In the region of Bolivia and Peru the capsicum baccatum chillies were already cultivated and bred by the Incas around 2,500 BC. The scientific name "baccatum" means berry-shaped and indeed the fruits of the wild-berries were similar and became larger by breeding.
One of the most common varieties in Peru today is the Aji Escabeche or Aji Amarillo Chili (heat level 5), which can be found all year round in the markets. The plants are perennial and can grow very large (up to 2 meters). The orange fruits are about 10 - 14 cm long, 3 cm thick and relatively thick-walled. They have a medium heat and an aromatic-fruity taste, which reminds a little of orange. Therefore, they are best suited for fruity sauces and salsas, as well as for drying. (Try our pickled Aji Amarillo or the Aji Amarillo Sauce, tasting like fresh chillies)
Another very popular Aji in South America is the Lemon Drop Chili (also called Aji Limón or Hot Lemon), which convinces with its intense citrus flavour. It is a very productive and large plant, which can bear up to 100 fruits in one year. The elongated chilies are thin-walled with little seeds and mature from green to a bright yellow. The Lemon Drop Chili is ideal for salads because of its fruity, citrus-like flavour. However, they can also be consumed freshly (heat level 7) or dried and ground into chili powder, which has a bright yellow color. In South America, these chillies are traditionally used for salsas and sauces, as well as for fish dishes and “cuy” (fried guinea pig). A must-try is our Hot Lemon Sauce!
From Chile origins the Aji Cristal Chili (heat level 7), which also forms quite large and branched plants. It bears numerous elongated, red chillies with juicy flesh, which can be up to 8 cm long and 2.5 cm wide. The flavour is pleasantly sweet and fruity with a sour note, which is typical for the species Capsicum baccatum. The Aji Cristal Chili is particularly suitable for pickling or grilling with garlic oil, especially in the yellowish-green state, where the flavour is the strongest. But it gives also to fresh salsas or cooked sauces an incomparable flavour.
Plant growth habit: The species Capsicum baccatum has a characteristic large growth - the plants can reach the size of more than 2 meters and are strongly branched already in the first year when there are good growth conditions. Among other species the baccata varieties are distinguished mainly by the flowers: the whitish-green petals have yellow, green or brown spots. The stamens are green to brown.
Cultivation tips: Since the C. baccatum varieties have a relatively late bloom, it is advisable to begin cultivation already in January on the window sill or in the greenhouse. The plants need a lot of sunlight and warmth like all chillies, and a humid, but never wet soil. To avoid stagnant soil moisture provide the pots with a drainage layer. As the C. baccatum chillies can be cultivated for several years, cultivation in the pot or tub can be recommended. So you can put them indoors when the temperature drops below 12° C so that all fruits can ripen. To keep the plant over the winter, cut it back by 20 cm after harvesting and place in a light place where it is at least 15°C.
Culinary: Typical for the C. baccatum varieties is the fruity taste with an often slightly sourish note with a moderate to intense heat. In South America they are traditionally used for many dishes, including fruity salsas, ceviche (raw marinated fish), Cuy (fried guinea pig) and many more. Most varieties can also be dried or pickled well.