Peruvian Aji Amarillo

I can’t tell you how exciting this is! Garden porn!

WOW. That’s an impressive set up. I wish I had the room but I think your pepper tent is bigger than my whole yard.

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Thank you for the compliments!

I put a min max thermometer and discovered the heater is not heating as well as I thought. Last night went down to 29 F (-1.7 C) and the lowest temperature in the tent, with the heater on max went down to 34 F (1 C). That’s too close for comfort. It must be the large volume/area to heat. I ran another extension cord, to power an additional heater, when nights are near freezing. The second heater is plugged into a different electrical outlet, so it won’t trip the circuit breaker. That should help.

The whole, fenced-in garden space is a rough square, 140 feet (43 meters) on each side. Years ago, it was a Red Cedar grove, with trees so close together, you could touch 2-5 standing in one place. Many small trees died from competition and the whole area was an incredibly dangerous fire risk; red cedars go up like a torch. It took years to cut and deal with the brush, a bit at a time. I started that project in 1986, and ended up with some fine growing areas and safer surroundings.

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The “instant Aji” made from the freeze dried peppers was a bit too grainy for my liking; good, but could be better, from a textural standpoint. In a blender or Vitamix, the ground peppers don’t move around after a certain point, the coarse powder cakes up and does not mix around. Aji have some sugar, sweetness, which makes the powder sticky.

What worked well was regrinding the powder is a Victorio grain mill. I love this mill! Usually, it gets used to make fresh bread flour, from whole white wheat, “Golden 86”. But it can grind coarsely-ground Aji, too. (I doubt it would work on whole peppers.)

The chopstick is used to keep the Aji powder moving into the grinding mechanism. The resulting powder rehydrated quickly and had a very good texture.

The only issue I have with the Victorio grain mill is that the coarseness dial tends to move. So, a small piece of freezer tape, seen on the left side of the dial, keeps the dial in place.

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Finally…success!

Some pretty Aji in this pile. Some were picked a few days ago.

Time to process and get some more seeds saved. So, this year, decent harvests really began about Dec. 1. The plants are still loaded with green and orange-blushed peppers.

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Beautiful! How long would you say between starting seed and harvest? My plant seems to be thriving in my unheated greenhouse and I don’t quite know what to expect.

This year, it took around ten months to get peppers in any quantity. However, earlier harvest would have been possible if the summer wasn’t so hot. We had months of 90 degrees F or more. Ideal pollination and pepper maturation for Aji is in the 70-78 degree range, cooler than most other peppers (except C. pubescens).

The plants tolerate much cooler temperatures than listed above, it’s just that pod maturation will be delayed. For maximum yield, it might be good to hand pollinate flowers using a small, soft brush. If you look closely, you can tell which flowers have fresher-looking pollen. Load up the brush and play bee! This can help produce larger peppers. Mornings in the 65-75 degree range are a good time to “get your bee on”. (Buzzing is optional, but may be fun and confuse anyone nearby!)

Every climate has different results, based on temperatures. My parents, in FL, have peppers maturing on much smaller plants, during Florida’s cooler fall-winter-early spring. You may find your best harvests are similar. Like tomatoes, the fruits are annoyingly slow to ripen! Slow food, to be sure.

The above peppers were processed into over half a gallon of Huancaina sauce, using a blend of Feta and Queso Fresco. Again, this was a first-run in the freeze drier to see if it’ll work. It’d be lovely to have a good, instant Huancaina sauce. The Vitamix got a serious workout, churning out a smooth puree.

The freeze dried Huancaina Aji sauce worked out great. After making more freeze dried Aji into powder, it became clear that, after awhile, the Aji clog the gears of the grain mill, since the peppers are kind of sticky. It may be better to grind the peppers in the Vitamix and puree them finer after they’re rehydrated, ready to use.

Ice and freezing rain are falling now, and tonight has more of the same, with subfreezing temperatures. The worries are: 1. the pepper tent will collapse under the weight of sticky ice. 2.the electricity will go out while I’m asleep and the plants will freeze. All the partly ripe peppers have been picked to after ripen in a dark plastic bag, lined with paper.

Wintery mix…ugh!

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Aphids were carried into the Aji tent by ants. I sprayed the lower trunks to get rid of the ants, but didn’t want to spray the leaves and developing peppers, many of which are showing orange. I decided to ignore the aphids and harvest what came in.

A while back, I went in the tent and saw lots of tiny gnat like insects everywhere. Upon closer inspection, turns out they’re aphid predators, Braconid wasps. There were hollow, dead aphid “mummies” all over, where the adult Braconids emerged after eating the aphid from the inside. With luck, the predators will control the aphids. Grim death for the aphids.

I was going to say lucky you, but I bet it is not just luck. I found a ladybug outside and put it in the greenhouse, and I ordered some more. I almost ordered lacewing eggs, but from Amazon they were roo much $$$.

I’ve picked a few ripe peppers from my greenhouse Aji Amarillo, and they are WAY spicier than I remember. They were perfect! About serrano heat.

If you just bite into one, without removing the core, they’re ferocious! How much of the “veins” is left makes a big difference, too. Glad you’re picking some! They might keep going for another year.

Even though it’s 40 degrees outside, the hoop house was 90 degrees inside, without heat running! I had to open the ends a little to vent it. A 50 degree difference, just from sunlight.

Very few aphids are left. Lots of hollow mummies and the mini wasps are still flying around, YAY!

Here’s a picture.

Any thoughts about saving seeds? They were not isolated. Would other pepper species cross with these?

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Pretty peppers! That’s about when I pick them. Then, they get put in a dark bag at room temperature to color up more. That usually only takes 2-3 days. The bag is a dark plastic bag; peppers are surrounded with newspaper (as a group) to reduce contact with the plastic. A quarter sized vent is left in the top of the bag. The goal is warm and humid, but not stagnant.

Aji Amarillo probably don’t cross with other species. There’s another Peruvian pepper, “Aji Panca”, which looks like a Capsicum baccatum, but is classified as C. chinense. I have a gut feeling that Aji Panca would cross with Aji Amarillo, but C. annuum and C. chinense should not cross with it.

I’m collecting a ton of pure seed. Not only did I not grow any other peppers this year, the plants are isolated in the hoop house. A recent germination test showed a 94% viability. I’d be happy to send you fresh seed.

The pepper seed here gets gently scrubbed with dish soap and rinsed off before drying. This helps keep the seeds from sticking together.

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I would like that ! Thank you.

On January 31, snow, sleet and ice were predicted, possibly heavy snow. Rather than risk damaging the Aji’s hoop house, it was deemed time to harvest what was in there and take the plastic off the framework. It was an excellent harvest, all the way to the end of January, despite subfreezing temperatures.

With a bunch of Aji Amarillo on hand, I wanted to explore removing the pepper skins without resorting to boiling, which thoroughly cooks the peppers and makes them taste too similar to other peppers, causing the citrusy flavors to escape. I grabbed a small butane torch and was surprised how quickly the Aji skin ruptured and blackened, faster than other peppers I’ve tried.

The skins scraped off super easily. You could do it with your fingers, but it gets sticky, so a paring knife was used. The whole peppers were also briefly rinsed to remove any charred bits of skin. In the above picture, part of the left pepper was scraped, removing the skin.

A closer look shows the pepper on the right, scorched and skinned, wasn’t cooked at all inside.

After cutting open and coring some, it was time for the taste test… Yum! A light char/roast flavor coupled with the classic raw Aji taste. Plus, the peppers were firm enough to handle easily, making deseeding, removing cores as easy as it is with raw peppers. Over a gas flame or coals, with tongs, the skin scorching would go very quickly indeed.

While the pepper skin scorching method of removing skins is well-known for NuMex chiles (Hatch), pimientos and others, I’ve never heard of this being used on Aji Amarillo . Now we know!

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What a good idea!

Here are some I harvested today, and what I think is a similar butane torch. I’ve only used it once, so I m not sure.

With larger peppers I’ve preferred a top of the gas burner basket thingy,

but maybe they would cook too much.

That torch looks like a better one because it doesn’t have a really small tank, like the the I used for the experiment. If you’ve got a bunch to scorch, I bet your grill mesh will work if you move the peppers and turn them so all sides get a quick scorch over a high flame, just enough to burn the skins. It might be best to use the grill mesh as a safety, so you can’t drop a pepper, and do one at a time, held in tongs. Even if you cook them, they’ll still taste good, it’ll just be trickier getting the seeds, veins out of a floppy pepper; that’ll need more of a scrape, vs. cut technique.

Shrinkrap, are your Aji plants still blooming? Before I left the ones here to the frost gods, they had stopped blooming around December. Just curious if it was the low light here or if the pepper plants have a blooming season.

No; they are not blooming. They just have ripening fruit…and dropping leaves, and a pretty bad whitefly infestation. I have a feeling I’m going to regret not getting rid of the plant. I released lady bugs, and they really handled it, and the aphids for awhile, but the whiteflies are now having a great time, and I see dead lady bugs and no live onees.

January is our coldest month here, and my stone fruit trees are coming back to life.

I was inspired by a recent WFD post to roast, peel, and make sauce from some of my peppers.


They peeled beautifuly

The heat and flavor of this pepper is SO amazing!

I’m trying this sauce. I think I have tried it before.

Yum! Please report on how the chicken comes out; it sounds delicious. I’m down to the last bags of Aji and many are green from the major picking before taking the shelter apart. some turned orange-yellow and some were too young.

I bet the scorched, peeled Aji would be great w/ cheese and crackers or nachos. I ate a few straight up, until my mouth was telling me to stop from the heat.

Bummer about the whiteflies. They’re a real pain to get rid of. They freeze dead out here, but sometimes escape from greenhouses or spread from plants sold at garden centers. Here’s some ideas for control. I’d also try thorough coatings with Dawn Dish soap and water. Better to kill them off before spring and warmer weather arrives.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold