Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Holy Grail

What's more fun than hunting down something that has become an obsession?
For gardeners there are infinite, obscure plants to stalk. For me it started with a small article in Sunset magazine. I don't usually pay much attention to anything they say because it's all so predictable.

Easy entertaining, fast meals, and colorful pillows to brighten a room. And every issue seems to have an article titled something like Instant Patio, or Patio in a Weekend. Meh.

I just don't expect to find anything new or interesting. But this time I found a suggestion for a citrus tree and a pepper variety that should both do well in the Pacific Northwest. I take back all the unkind things I said.

The citrus is Yuzu, which I wrote about earlier this year, on March 26th. And I found the plant right away, without really trying. Hopefully it will live up to the hype.

The pepper though has become my current holy grail.

It goes by the name rocoto and is from Peru, Bolivia and Equador. It is the oldest known domesticated pepper. Thick flesh with black seeds. The fruit sounds delicious, very hot, but fragrant, like melon, but with heat. This sounds great, that is exactly what I love about habaneros, but I haven't had much luck growing them. I think our growing season is just too short and not hot enough for habaneros.

Here's the best part, this pepper is very cold tolerant. And it's a perennial, if protected from frost and pruned it can grow for many years and up to 6 feet.

Can you see now why I MUST have this plant? I can't believe it's not hugely popular here.

This pepper is a species, not a cultivar or a hybrid from Capsicum annum, like most other peppers.

Rocoto is also known as, or related to, these other peppers manzano, peron, caballo, ciruelo, jutiapa, llata, canario.

Of course I can't find it anywhere in town, but I do enjoy the blank stares I get from the besieged nursery folks I have spoken to. They are slammed this year as millions of people have decided to grow some food for the first time.

I have found some enthusiasts online and I ordered some seeds, I have begun to suspect that I may not find starts. It's a little late to start peppers for this summer. But no matter, if I start them now they will be great next year.

More to come as this story developes.

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