Thursday, August 25, 2005

Datil Peppers




This pepper runs through my family almost as strongly as the DNA we share. This is a Datil Pepper. Don't go grab your seed catalog, 'cause you won't find it there.

Growing up in St. Augustine, we were told that the Datil was OUR pepper and would not grow anywhere else. Well, it is our pepper, but it will obviously grow in other places if the conditions are right.

We of Minorcan heritage proudly claimed this hot fruit as our own. Our indentured servant (slave) ancestors had brought it with them when they came to work Mr. Turnbull's indigo plantation in the New Smyrna colony on Florida's east coast. In the late 1700's the colony failed and our ancestors walked up the beach to St. Augustine to settle. They carried their datil peppers with them.

This is not just a hot pepper. It has a unique flavor unlike any other. In "The Pepper Garden", by Dave DeWitt and Paul Bosland, the datil's true origins are nebulous.

"In 1768, according to legend, Minorcan settlers in St. Augustine, Florida, introduced the "Datil" pepper, a land race of the chinense species . Supposedly, this pepper was transferred from the Caribbean to Africa and then to Minorca in the Mediterranean, from which it was brought to Florida.Some historians believe that this story is all bunk and that the Datil peppers were introduced into Florida by trade with the Caribbean islands, a simpler explanation that makes a lot more sense."

What is definite and known is that this pepper has been grown by St. Augustine families for over 300 years, passed down from generation to generation. It is a required ingredient in chicken pilau (perlow), Minorcan style clam chowder, datil pepper relish, datil pepper vinegar, etc.

My Papa was THE datil pepper grower in St. Augustine during his lifetime. He would start thousands of datils from seeds he had saved and grow them to seedling size in styrofoam coffee cups. When they were ready, he'd put a sign out in front of his big white house and the cars would start stopping.

For their money, his customers would get vibrant healthy datil plants and free advice from Papa. He loved growing those plants. He loved visiting with his customers. He loved taking his grandchildren through his tiny greenhouse packed with white cups and green heritage.

Later, when Papa got older, my dad (Papa's eldest son) picked up the torch, got a greenhouse, and before he knew it, his was the house people stopped at to buy their peppers. Eventually, he too had grandchildren to take into the greenhouse to water the peppers and dibble in the compost. Dad is 76 now and still grows datils each year, but not as many as before. He has cut back on the volume, but still supplies family, friends, and those who seek him out.

I am shopping for a greenhouse...
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Deb said...

Good! Carry on the tradition! I love hearing the stories behind some of the true heirloom varieties of vegetables that are out there. And I love reading your stories of the St. Augustine area; it reminds me of my trips there as a child.

Karen Schmautz said...

I was just about to ask you about your torch. Great story!

Hey! You know my love of all things from the sea. So..Minorcan style clam chowder? I am not a big hot pepper fan (hubbie is), but I would love to hear about that recipes. (I'm still remembering that wonderful picture of the steak on the barbie you had for 4th of July.)

Dieting is heck.

R.Powers said...

Thanks, I love heirloom plants also. My yankee mom has amaryllis in her backyard that came from her grandmother's home in Pennsylvania. That living link to her childhood is very precious to her.

A good chowder is so filling that you could probably fit it into a diet...this one is tomato based not cream based. I usually cook it sans recipe, but I do have one and will post it.
Also, I enjoyed your burglar post... it reminded me of my burglar chase...maybe a future posting from Pure Florida. Take care.

R.Powers said...

That depends ...are you willing to become an honorary Minorcan?
Email me at if you are serious. I have peppers drying for seed in the kitchen.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the family tradition! I would hate to see the link break.Thanks for the story.As I read it it was as if I was still there seeing Papa with his old dirty hat smiling as we walked into his greenhouse and how he would explain exactly how he did it.

R.Powers said...

I know what you mean.I have a slide of him in his greenhouse with his plants, as soon as I digitize it I will post it.
I still miss him too.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your story about your experiences with your Dad & his peppers. I love Minorcan Clam Chowder & have made up my own recipe...but...I cannot find Datil peppers anywhere. I didn't even know what they looked like until I found your web site! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Just to let you know I love the datil pepper and have been growing them in Minnesota for several years now. Got several peppers last year, kept the plants indoors last winter and now they are more bushy this year with lots of little peppers coming. Pete

Anonymous said...

i have a few plants and like to experiment with my datils but this year it seems as if they aren't as hot as i have had in years past. Has anyone ever heard of a way to make them as hot as they can be. The flavor is wonderful but they're just not all that hot.

Anonymous said...

My mom made us chicken perlow last night with datil peppers. It was great! She is from St. Augustine also; a Colee. I wish i could buy some in Atlanta; I havent checked the farmer's market yet.


Anonymous said...

My friend grows Datil peppers & has given me a bag full. I would love to have a recipe for pepper sauce. I only know how to use the pepprs for Minorcan clam chowder. Can you help?

Anonymous said...

I found your webpage when I did a google search for 'datil peppers' while trying to explain them to a friend. I'm a Minorcan descendent currently in Atlanta. My great-grandmother was a Pellicer. Thanks for the story it brought back many memories and has left my mouth watering for Minorcan clam chowder, perlow...etc.

Anonymous said...

To make datils or any other pepper hotter, remember this. A pepper "any pepper" gets it heat from stress. I f you want to make it hotter don't water it until it slightly wilts between waterings. If you want it mild,,,then water more often.

Anonymous said...

Cathy... a pepper sauce recipe for you.
This is for a small batch for you to try. Increase everything for a larger batch. NOTE: this is for a fresh batch. If you want to can the sauce let me know and i will give you that recipe.

What you will need:
1. 1 clove garlic
2. 2 roma tomatoes
3. 1/4 medium onion
4. 1/4 tsp cumin
5. a large pinch of cilantro
6. 1/2 tsp salt
7. 1 tbs cooking oil
8. 5 datil peppers
Chop or blend in a food procceser, garlic, cilantro, datil peppers, onion and garlic into very fine chunks, add the cumin, salt, and oil. In a small sauce pan heat the above slowly for 1 hour stiring enough to keep from sticking.
Chop the tomatoes into 1/4" chunks.
Once the peppers are cooked for one hour add the tomatoes and cook on a low heat for 30 mins....You now have HOT SAUCE!

Anonymous said...

Is there anyone who could sell and send me some of these peppers?

Anonymous said...

I've got a datil pepper growing here in Gainesville. Well, "growing" might be a bit generous - it's surviving. It's watered, fertilized, gets sun, avoids frost, everything....any suggestions? Thanks!

Matthew Edwards said...

I just ordered some Datil seeds from eBay, and I'm quite excited. I've been wanting to grow them for some time now, but even though I live just south of St. Augustine in Jacksonville, I haven't found many places to purchase them.

Anonymous said...

I got those datil seeds and thank you very much. I talked to my grandmother Sharron Tanchin (she is a minorcan from the Salona/Singleton Family) and she is giving me the singleton /salona family recipe for minorcan clam chowder from their old restaurant in mayport. i'll send you a copy. also if you have any more recipes please post them .

Anonymous said...

I found your site while looking for recipes for datil peppers. I live about 30 minutes west of St. Augustine and have been growing datils successfully for about 6 or 7 years. Just picked about 100 off 1 of my plants & was looking for something to make with them, besides hot sauce. The recipe for hot sauce looks great, if anyone has any other I would be thrilled to see some. Thanks, gator lady.

Anonymous said...

I grew up around St. Augustine and have grown Datil peppers most of my life.There is nothing like them.I enjoy a good steak with a couple right off the bush to go with it.Also make all the usual Minorcan dishes.I have been living in Baker county for a number of years and have fantastic Datil Pepper plants and have had the seeds saved over for years.

Anonymous said...

I would love to buy or trade for some Datil seeds. I can trade Hawaiian Chili Pepper seeds. They are very small peppers that have a lot of heat.


Unknown said...

Hello there, come across your post randomly while searching for all things Minorcan, as I often do. I, too am a proud Minorcan, my parents are ol' Mayport folk, and my minorcan blood is thick on both sides always looking to network with other minorcans. Also am looking for datil growing tips.

Anonymous said...

Hey y'all!
For all of you datil lovers who may still read these postings: I teach high school horticulture at the First Coast Technical College (formally the VoTech) and this year we're growing 15,000 (yes, count them - 15,000) true datil peppers as part of a research grant through UF and IFAS. I'd love to share growing tips, recipes and your company at the school if you're in the area. Right now (9/7/07) we're busy planting poinsettias but will start on the datils next week. It's a year long project, so I'll keep this site on my school computer and see if anyone responds.

Anonymous said...

Great Datil info...
I am a Masters student at UF and an avid gardener with an interest in the plants full of stories. A friend of mine and I are interested in doing a study this semester on Minorcan and African American home gardens of the St. Augustine area. We are looking for old-timers and new who have or do garden, to talk with about their gardens, the plants they grow, the links of these to their identities...
We also have a garden on campus where we have a couple of datils going strong...
Please contact me, Jay, at
Thanks so much....

Anonymous said...

Well my Datil you sent me is growing very strong and has its 9th set of leaves. i should have fruit bodies next year. Again i am of minorcan descent, the Mayport variety i suppose. and im still interested in more recipes and tips on datils. I would very much like to talk to the poster casey who also has family in mayport (Solana / Singleton Families). and anyone else who can please send me more datil recipes please feel free to email me at i am willing to trade recipes, pics and stories. please write

Anonymous said...

Hey there - My great grandmother was Vi Singleton, which probably connects some of us. I grew up hearing all about Mayport and life as a Minorcan from my grandmother Aline. I'd love to hear more and connect the dots so-to-speak for any of you Singleton/Greenlaws who are left in this neck of the woods:-) Recipes are always welcome and I'd be more than happy to share as I inherited my grandmother's recipe books last year when she passed away. Several were put together by hand and are from Mayport. Be in touch!!

Anonymous said...

Floridacracker -

I sent you an email. A request for some datil pepper seeds if you have any available. They are not easy to find.

They are not easy pepper seeds to find….

Any help appreciated.

(I was born Rockledge, FL 1960... my dad worked the aerospace program at Kennedy Space Center, and I now do too). Not many crackers around anymore.

I would be more than happy to make a charitable donation to Friday afternoon cold drink fund! :)

yngrayn@[remove the bracketed text]

Anonymous said...

Laura Please write me i an related to singleton as well.
My datil will fruit this year hopefuly i have cared for it for a year so far. It is really healthy and doing well. i just topped it today for more growth. Also any recipes i have we can share. anyone else please write and we can share as well.


ldsdove said...

My Grandpa was William Brazeale He was from MayPort as well Grandma was Clyda falana from Mayport. We Have many familly members from maybort FL I was born in Jax Momma was born in Jax . I grew up around Mayport. We have 3 generations of familly from the area all minorcan and all who love the datil pepper and the traditions that go with it. We make a dish called shrimp gravy and rice . We love it as a main dish. We also when Grand pa was here He would catch gofer turtles and we have gofer stew made with wild oragano and datil pepper . He and mom would go fishing and we'd have a fish fry every week end . I can remember going camping as a girl on long island with my gramdpa and mom we'd go swimming and we' catch our food meaning fish of course . My mom just passed away and I miss her greatly. Im trying to grow som plants now from seed and not doing too good seeing I live in Arizona . I wish i could find someone to ship some seedlings here to me so i could grow them here. but with the ban in Fl I doubt that happening. But any way thank you for reading this.

Anonymous said...

I live in Jacksonville, FL. My dad has always grown datil's and there is nothing like the flavor of a fish chowder with a dozen or so datil's cooked in it. I was just thinking I need to start some plants myself. And maybe, just maybe, I could come up with a good sauce recipe... yummmmm!!!

Anonymous said...

I traveled to St Augustine recently and had my first taste of the datil pepper, what a well kept secret. Also I visited the farmers market at the amphitheater one Saturday and found a datil beefy jerky, Datil Daddys, it was the best jerky I ever tasted.

Anonymous said...

I moved to St. Augustine about 3 years ago... recently began working at a produce market on the island and I have fallen in love with the Dat'l Do It hot sauce. I love how it is hot and sweet at the same time.
Anyway, I am growing my first datil pepper plant at home, and I am trying to find a recipe similar to the bottled stuff, but every recipe I come across (not many, I know people like to keep their formulas in the family!) does not seem to have the sweet factor in it. I know there are hot AND sweet datil peppers, I only have a hot plant, but in reading the label on my bottle it does include corn syrup. If anyone has a recipe similar to Dat'l do it, pretty please e-mail to me or post it. At $4.29 a bottle, this is becoming an expensive habit for a working mom!

Anonymous said...

I found your website while looking for recipes to use my datils. I really enjoyed the history and stories, thank you. If anyone has recipes to share-I liked the hot sauce Anonymous gave and I would like to can it if the recipe is available. My datil plant has kicked into overdrive and I don't want to lose any of them. They are addicting! Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

My e-mail for recipes

Suzanne said...

I was happy to come across this site while looking for datil pepper recipes. We brought 4 small plants home to South Jersey and I have loads of peppers in my garden. The peppers are getting large, but I was not sure if I should pick them when they are small. Does anyone know?

Anonymous said...

Hi Everyone! I have a few datil plants and lots of peppers. Does anyone have a relish recipe to can? Or any other recipes to share? I'd also like to dry them or freeze for future use, any ideas on that? Thanks in advance. email me.

Anonymous said...

Greetings All,

I live in Palatka and been a datil pepper fan for years. This year I finally branched into growing my own. I haven't seen anyone else mention it but, I found a 'sweet' datil pepper at 'County Line'market on 207. It's ripens red instead of yellow like the typical hot pepper. When seeding and de-veining the sweet peppers were definitely milder than the regular ones (the nose knows hot) but still had that unique datil smell. It should be fun experimenting with them.


Camella Black said...

Loved the blog about Datil Pepper's; I grew up all over Florida and remember my grandmother having one of these plants growing outside of her kitchen door.

I bought some products from someone while visiting ST Augustine, but would love to try some seeds here in SC.

Anonymous said...

Just discovered this blog! Love the history and comments. Almost 60 years in Atl. Beach. Growing my own Datil's for about 3 years. I have a couple quarts still frozen from last year. I have made the tomato based sauce and pepper vinegar for greens. I would like to have a good mustard, chutney, relish or any other Datil recipe!Please share! Thanks!

Rick said...

Not sure if my post made it.
I would like to trade some hot pepper seed for Datil pepper seeds
Drop me a line.

Bill said...

I have a friend in South Daytona that turned me onto the Datil Pepper and he has been giving me bottles of his own sauce. I must Say it ROCKS! He recently sent me a bag full of peppers to try and make a sauce with. I am an avid griller/smoker and I am currently playing with Datil's for BBQ sauces. I use his sauce on boiled shrimp and just can't get enough of it. The stories told here are fun to read and inspiring as well.

Anonymous said...

datils pair perfectly with tangerine juice. a little garlic some tomato paste vinegar and brown thats bar b que sauce.
datils can be dried in the oven and put in a coffee grinder for "datil dust".

Anonymous said...

I would love to get some starter plants / or seeds. Could you e mail me at with some info on getting some and some growing info. my plants didnt do so well last year!

MARCIA Z said...

I'm moving to that area....I'm just about 5 minutes from St Augustine over the bridge. I've tried to grow the Datil peppers from seed and not successful. Do you sell small plants--or does anyone? Maybe at the farmers market on Saturdays? is my email if you can let me know. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Hello folks,
I would like to grow some Datils for myself, if anyone has some seeds or small plants for sale, I live in Bradford county and my e-mail is any help would be appreciated.

Unknown said...

Would love to get some Datil seeds. Anyone have any luck in responses.

I see where FC has had some for sale, are those still available?

Please respond.

Brenda Powell said...

My mother heavenly father rest her soul she always made the best food even Lima beans and rice she always used datil pepper vinegar on her plate I miss cooking with her It was always fun to learn from her.

R.Powers said...

This post is so old I had not checked comments for a while.
Yes, I have seeds. See the ad at the top of the web page (the picture of datils ... upper left)
$5.00 cash to:
POB 205
Otter Creek, FL

You will get 20 seeds and two recipes in return.


cherylzz1964 said...

I live in Palatka and have been having great luck with my datil's this year. I would love some comments on the best way to dry them...If you are adventerous try this recipe!!!

Datil pepper Peanut Brittle

6 to 8 fresh datil peppers,(more if you like it real hot!) cleaned,
finely chopped (no seeds and no white part)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 Tbls. water
1/2 cup raw peanuts
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 drops green food coloring
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Generously butter a 15 x 10-inch jellyroll pan. Set aside.
In a skillet melt 1 tablespoon of the butter; add datils and peanuts, and cook over low heat until peppers are soft.
In a saucepan, combine sugar, syrup and water, bring to a boil over medium heat. Add jalapenos and peanuts. Stir well, and cook until mixture reaches the hard crack stage on a candy thermometer.( 300 degrees) Remove from heat.
Blend in remaining 1 tablespoon butter, vanilla extract, almond extract and food coloring until well mixed. Sprinkle baking soda evenly over the cooked mixture and stir well. When foamy, pour immediately onto the prepared jellyroll pan. Spread out into a thin layer. Let cool on jellyroll pan until until brittle and cool enough to handle. Break into irregular pieces. Store in an airtight container.
Yields 1/2 to 1 pound.

obxgeorge said...

I purchased some Datil pepper plants while visiting St. Augustine in April. They are growing in pots on my deck since all I have surrounding my house is sand. I live on the Outer Banks of NC in Kitty Hawk. My question is about when I should pick the peppers. They have flowered, set peppers, grew and turned green and have now turned purple (eggplant color). Will the color continue to change to red ? Or are they now at the stage to be picked ?

cherylzz1964 said...

obxgeorge; You should be able to pick now or wait. Some will probably turn yellow. I have several plants some green, some yellow, some purple. I use mine at all stages. They seem to get sweeter the longer you wait, alittle hotter too!!

soupdoc said...

Do you have a recipe or suggestion for infusing the datil pepper taste into with our locally produced south florida honey or honey jelly?

Armadillo Pepper said...

We find that people fall in love with this pepper because it provides some heat, but has the sweet flavor unlike a habanero. Best of luck to you guys!

1morecast said...

There will be all kinds of datil pepper concoctions at the St.Augustine flower and garden show on oct 6th. Lots of good food!!

Kristi Egloff said...

What a cool story. Thank you for sharing this bit of Florida / Datil pepper history with us. I love hearing stories like this. I will definitely be ordering those seeds! Hopefully you can share a recipe for the datil pepper relish?! That was what started my Google search that landed me here today. Lol

~Mary said...

Just doing research on germination time for the sweet datil pepper seeds and came across your blog.

I will be growing the sweet datil peppers next spring.

Can I expect them to produce peppers their first year of growth?