This is the latest in a series of posts that I’ve done about my favorite varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs we grow at Happy Acres. To see my other Spotlights, and those from other garden bloggers, visit the Variety Spotlights page.
Today’s Spotlight is on a hot pepper called Aji Rico. This F1 hybrid variety is a 2017 AAS Winner and has quickly become one of my favorite peppers. It’s always loaded with lots of 3 to 4 inch peppers that ripen to a brilliant shade of red. The thin-walled fruits are sweet and crunchy, with a mild to medium heat level and a citrusy flavor. They are great for fresh use and for turning into hot sauce, which is what I do with a lot of ours.
Aji Rico is one of the first hybrid hot peppers from the Capsicum baccatum species, which originated in South America. Compared to many of the open pollinated C. baccatum peppers, it boasts faster maturity and higher yields. Aji Rico is one of the earliest of the baccatum peppers to ripen in our garden, and it produces ripe peppers in 70-75 days after setting out transplants. I have grown it successfully both in large containers and for in-ground plantings. The plants do get tall (30-36″) and can use some support, and I use cages for my in-ground plants and stakes for the ones I grow in pots. The yields are definitely higher for in-ground plantings, and mine are always prolific producers here in our garden.
In the kitchen, Aji Rico is truly a versatile pepper. It’s usable at both the green and red ripe stages, though the flavor intensifies as the fruits ripen. It’s mild enough that hot pepper lovers can snack on them raw, which is a great way to enjoy the fruity aroma and flavor. They are also a good choice for salsas and sauces both raw and cooked. And they can be dried and ground into seasoning powder too.
I use a lot of mine to make fermented hot sauces. To prepare, I slice them lengthwise and remove the seeds and inner membrane to reduce the heat a bit. I wear vinyl gloves for this operation, as I do when processing all hot peppers. Next I mix the peppers with salt and let them sit for a few hours before packing into glass jars. I generally ferment the peppers for 1 to 2 weeks before turning into hot sauce. For complete details on my method, please read Fermented Pepper Mash. Of course you can always skip the fermenting step and make a fresh hot sauce with them as well. I have a few of my favorite recipes listed at the end of this spotlight.
This year I had a bumper crop of Aji Ricos, so I tried pickling a batch of them. They turned out great, and I will be preserving them that way in the future for sure. I’m still tweaking my recipe, but the first step in the process involves an overnight soak in a 10% salt solution. That step firms up the peppers a bit, and reduces the heat level as well. The next day I drain the peppers, then make a sweet brine using sugar, rice vinegar and water. I store the pickled peppers in the refrigerator, where they keep for several months without losing quality. The pickled peppers are great on sandwiches and salads, and I use like to use them as a pizza topping too. The combination of fruity, sweet, sour and spicy ticks all the boxes for me!
If you are looking for a great tasting pepper that’s productive in the garden and versatile in the kitchen, you might consider giving Aji Rico a try. It is early to mature, high-yielding and a vigorous grower. It has certainly earned a place in my garden in the years to come.
I hope you have enjoyed this spotlight on a pepper that is very productive and tasty, and one of my all-time favorites. Seed for Aji Rico is available in the U.S. from several sources, including Totally Tomatoes, Harris Seeds and Territorial Seed. I’ll be back soon with another variety to spotlight.
For more information and recipes for making your own hot sauce: