April 29, 2021
This article is about my friend Paco. We met on a pickleball court 5 or 6 years ago and have been good friends ever since. The first time I stepped into his backyard, I discovered we had something other than pickleball in common – gardening! Paco is from Puerto Rico and he has turned his backyard into a tropical paradise. Last year at a summer pool party, I noticed a pepper plant with small, wrinkly looking red and green peppers. He explained that he collected the seeds from peppers he got in Puerto Rico because it is an important ingredient for sofrito. I left the party with a baggie full of seeds.
The Aji Dulce peppers (Capsicum Chinese) are small, sweet peppers. They have the shape and size of a habanera pepper but without the heat. They start out light to dark green and eventually turn red and orange if left on the plant to mature. Aji Dulce is used to season dishes in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Cuba. My research found that in Puerto Rico, it is most commonly used in sofrito (which translates to stir fry or sauté in English). It is a perennial in the tropics but is an annual here.
With the seeds Paco gave me last year, we have been able to start a number of these pepper plants for the Raincatcher’s Garden annual plant sale which will be held at the garden on Thursday, May 13th. I am looking forward to growing a couple of these plants myself this summer and will be looking up sofrito recipes once I get a good crop going!
This plant goes by several names. In Puerto Rico it is know as aji dulce, ajicito or ajies. In the Dominican Rebuplic it is called aji gustoso and in Cuba it is aji cachucha. To me, this plant will always and simply be referred to as Paco’s peppers!
Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993
We will be posting more details on this blog about the May 13th plant sale in the near future.