Corno di toro chili peppers are a symbol of Italian-American heritage and are thought to have been introduced to the US by Italian immigrants in the late 19th or early 20th century. They can often be seen growing in Italian-American gardens and are an ingredient in many Italian dishes.
Corno di Toro is the Italian for “bull’s horn”, and the chili pepper gets this name from its shape: curved, just like the horn of a bull. It’s also sometimes called the cowhorn pepper for the same reason.
When fully grown, it’s around 6 – 8 inches long. They start out green and then change color as they mature, depending on the variety. Red, yellow, and orange ones are available. When they’ve reached a deep, rich, color, then you know they’re ready to be picked.
If you’re expecting spice, you bought the wrong pepper. Corno di toro peppers have very little capsaicin – the chemical that gives us that burning sensation when we eat spicy foods – in them.
They only reach between 0 – 500 on the Scoville scale. To put that into perspective, jalapeño peppers, usually considered quite mild, have a Scoville rating of 2500 – 8000.
That means that corno di toro peppers won’t trouble anyone who doesn’t like spicy food. Instead of being spicy, they actually have a sweet, fruity taste.
Cooking With Corno Di Toro Chili Peppers
These peppers are excellent to cook with. The walls are a fair bit thicker than most other peppers, which gives them a robust, almost meaty texture that’s pleasantly crisp. It also makes them ideal for roasting and stuffing.
They can be grilled to high temperatures without burning and will hold their shape and integrity well if cooked when stuffed with other things. This is very useful since it means the filling isn’t going to fall out everywhere.
You can also chop them up to put into salads or sauces, add them to pizzas or fry them in olive oil and serve them with a touch of salt.
Growing Corno Di Toro Chili Peppers
Good news! Corno di toro chilis aren’t too difficult to grow, either outside or in a greenhouse. You’ll need to sow them before the end of March (early April is possible but March is better) indoors, or in a greenhouse.
Make sure to use fertile, well-drained soil, and cover it with a little bit of compost. Keep them in a place where they’ll get plenty of sunlight, but make sure the compost on the top stays moist. 72°F is the ideal temperature.
Once the seedlings have sprouted, you can place them in individual pots. Getting the water levels right at this stage is very important. If you overwater them, they can get rot, but underwatering them will kill them off. Once they’ve become established, water them heavily but infrequently.
During summer, try to keep them out of harsh, direct sunlight – more than a few hours of this per day will dry them out. Indirect, though still bright, light is better. By June, they should be ready to move outside permanently but do this slowly so that it’s not a shock for them.
They can be fed every week or two with tomato feed (half-strength). By July or October, they should be ready to harvest. It’s best to pick them without waiting too long, as this way, you’ll get more yield.
Fresh peppers will last for a few days if stored in the refrigerator. If you chop them up and freeze them, they’ll last for up to 6 months.