Growing Datil Pepper
in Northeast Florida Vegetable Gardens
( Capsicum chinense (sinense) Jacques )
Datil peppers have been grown in the St. Augustine area gardens for over 200 years, heirloom seeds passed on from one generation to the next. The bright yellow peppers could be considered a sweeter fruitier habanero alternative. Scoville units measured on Datil peppers range from 100,000 on mild peppers to 300,000. That is right up there with the habanero peppers heat scale ratings! They are 6 times hotter than a Tabasco pepper, Datils are the perfect blistering hot peppers for your very own homemade hot pepper vinegar or hot sauce. These fruity little yellow skinned peppers pack quite a punch!
Although seeds are nearly impossible to find, local garden centers and flea markets will usually have someone selling datil pepper plants in summertime. Here at S & J Nursery we have them in spring but they tend to run out early no matter how many seeds I can get my hands on and plant!
Foliage, Origins, and Use of Datil Peppers / Capsicum chinense ( sinense ) Jaques for Northeast Florida vegetable gardens:
Some say Datil peppers came to St. Augustine with the Spaniards in 1777, some say they came with the Monorcans, but however they came to St. Augustine they have been a well kept local secret for ages! Local lore sais the Datil pepper will not grow anywhere but in St. Augustine Florida, and while that isn’t true, it may be the reason that the pepper hasn’t spread outside of our local area and earned the fame that this fruity hot pepper deserves.
The only thing St. Augustine Datil pepper gardeners hold on to tighter than their seeds is their recipe for Datil pepper hot sauce! But never fear, you can always make one of your own by substituting datil peppers for Tabasco peppers in any recipe you find. Datil peppers will have a fruitier flavor to the heat.
A traditional St. Augustine home use for the Datil pepper is to stuff some of the green or yellow peppers into a bottle and fill with white or apple cider vinegar, let it set for a few weeks and use over a bowl of white acre peas, fresh from your farmers market, and rice, add a few sliced onions and tomatoes and you have yourself a treat! If you can’t take the heat of the datil peppers first dilution, pour it out and fill it with apple cider vinegar again, the second, and third time you fill the bottle it will not be so strong but still hold plenty of heat for the rest of us.
Planting Season for Datil Pepper in Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida and the surrounding areas:
Datil Pepper can be planted as soon as the weather warms in spring. Late February to early March through April and again in July an August are considered a warm season crop, they are frost sensitive and should only be planted in frost free months in Northeast Florida vegetable gardens, or placed on a porch or patio to keep the frost off during the winter season.
Start your peppers in February from seed and March from S & J Nursery transplants. Growing season for Datil peppers in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area garden is February to July.
Sun Exposure for growing Datil Peppers in Northeast Florida Vegetable Gardens:
Unlike most pepper plants, datil peppers need a bit of protection from the full on hot summer sun here in Northeast Florida. Plant your Datil Peppers into a Partially shaded environment for best results. Morning sun with afternoon shade or afternoon sun with morning shade locations will also be acceptable for the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area garden.
Soil Preferences for Datil Peppers / Capsicum chinense ( sinense ) in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida areas:
Datil peppers will do best in the Northeast Florida garden when grown in soils that have been generously amended with compost.
Be sure to plant into well drained soils.
Amend your vegetable planting site generously with a good quality compost each year in spring before planting your pepper plants into Florida’s native soils for best results.
Care of Datil Pepper Plants in the Northeast Florida Vegetable Garden:
Watering your Datil Peppers:
Newly planted Datil peppers will require watering daily for the first few days to a week after being planted from seed or transplanted from an S & J Nursery container.
Once the Datil pepper plants are established and growing, be sure to keep the soil moist by watering at least once per week if rainfall is scarce, when plants are bearing fruits, start watering twice a week.
Mulching your Datil Pepper Plants:
For maximum growth potential, mulch plants generously, this will help conserve moisture.
Fertilizing Your Datil Peppers:
Feed every two to three weeks with an all purpose fertilizer like 6-6-6.
Or for an organic approach, try fertilizing with a mixture of fish emulsions and seaweed (kelp) at one ounce each per gallon of water. Apply semi weekly as a foliar spray.
If your vegetable plants look like they could use a boost, give them a good watering with homemade compost tea as soon as the top few inches of soil around your plant is dry to the touch!
Harvesting Your Datil Peppers in the Northeast Florida Vegetable Garden:
Datil Peppers can be harvested when skins still green or once they have ripened to the mature peppers bright orangey yellow color. Be sure to wear gloves when harvesting and wash your hands several times with water and soap to remove the oils from the pepper after handling, especially when cutting peppers open to harvest the seeds. Remember, these peppers are hot and handle them with care, remember not to rub your eyes or face when handling any hot peppers.