These incredible peppers, typically found in South America, are one of the few peppers in the world to provide both heat and fruitiness with every bite.
It’s believed this pepper was first cultivated by the indigenous people of the 1500s who lived in Southern Mexico near the state of Hidalgo – famous for it’s agricultural produce.
These days, this pepper is particularly popular in Mexico, Central America, South America, as well as Spain.
They often make a regular appearance at local fresh produce markets with its unique flavor and look making this apple-shaped pepper stand out from all the others you may come across.
Grown at very high altitudes in a cool climate, the Manzano pepper is gown in a large shrub sometimes as a creeper which can reach up to 3m in length. It’s particularly fond of the shade and struggles in the heat, making this quite a difficult pepper to grow at home.
Other popular names for this pepper include Chile Caballo, Chile Peron, and Chile Ciruelo, and it’s is among the oldest of the world’s domesticated peppers.
What Do Manzano Peppers Look And Taste Like?
‘Manzano’ in Spanish translates to ‘apple’ which is a perfect way to sum up the look of these peppers. Size-wise these peppers can vary. They can be as small and round as a cherry or they can grow to the same size as a bell pepper.
The vibrant colors change as the peppers mature and range from a glowing green to a bright yellow-orange when ripe. They can also sometimes turn a fiery red.
The best way to describe the taste of this pepper is citrusy-sweet. Some have compared the taste to that of bell peppers but with a richer, spicier taste to them, while others compare the heat to a mild jalapeno pepper but with a fruitier kick.
You can eat them raw or cooked and they are a delicious pepper to use in a salsa dish as they provide such a distinct flavor and heat.
What Makes These Chilies Unique?
The thing that makes these chilies stand out from the rest is not only their delicious taste and unique flavor but also their furry leaves and unusual black seeds.
Not many peppers of medium-heat are lucky enough to belong to the C. pubescens species, but the Manzano, along with the rocoto and peron peppers, do.
Because of this, these leaves have a light fur on them which gives them almost a velvety feel and the peppers themselves contain those fascinating black seeds.
Here are some Manzano stats which you may find interesting:
- Scoville heat units (SHU): 12,000 – 30,000 SHU
- Median Heat: 21,000 SHU
- Origin: South America
- Jalapeno reference scale: 2 to 12 times hotter
- Use: Culinary
How Hot Is A Manzano Pepper?
A Manzano pepper is widely considered to be a medium-hot chili. If you were to compare it to a jalapeno pepper, the Manzano pepper can reach up to 12 times the heat of an average jalapeno.
While this may be too hot for some, the fruitiness that you also get from this pepper makes the heat an enjoyable experience, even for those who are not typically a fan of the heat. It definitely packs a punch, but not so much that the pepper’s unique taste is lost.
How Can You Use Manzano Peppers?
These peppers are delicious when eaten both raw and cooked. As mentioned, they are a great ingredient to use in salsa thanks to their heat but also the refreshing kick of fruitiness that follows.
You can also create a great hot sauce with these peppers by cooking and blending them and storing in your refrigerator as an accompaniment to future dishes.
This sauce is great when added to dishes such as soups, chilis, and stews to give the flavor an extra punch.
Alternatively, you can slice and dice them raw and add them as toppings to your favorite pizza, as part of your favorite salad, or to burrito or taco mixes.
As well as helping to flavor main dishes, these peppers can also be stuffed with delicious ingredients and baked. Typically you would fill them with a mixture of ground meat, cheese and grains which make a delicious starter or light snack.
These peppers are perfect for pickling. They create a unique sweet, tangy, sour flavor which makes these picked peppers perfect for snacking as well as a great accompaniment to a cheese board.
Are Manzano Peppers Difficult To Grow?
You’ll find that these peppers are definitely harder to grow than most other chilies as they originate from the Andes, so they thrive in colder conditions. They prefer a cooler base temperature and generally don’t grow as well in high heat environments like other chilies do.
The perfect base temperature for growing these peppers is between 40 and 60 degrees fahrenheit, but if you are growing them in temperatures higher than this, make sure you provide your plant with plenty of shade which may help you.