Here at the Extension Office we often have farmers bringing in their locally grown produce to share and offer thanks for assistance through the season. This mostly occurs in the spring with the first harvest of squash, tomatoes, peppers, and other fresh vegetables. I was delighted to see a rarity in our area this week when one of our small farmers brought in Datil Peppers and a fresh Datil Pepper seasoning which they produce locally. When I started this position I was clueless about Datil Peppers, but went on to learn they are a bit of a local phenomenon in North and Central Florida and have a strong following among those from the Caribbean Islands and more distantly, Minorca in the Mediterranean Sea. Datil’s trace an important part of their local history to the St. Augustine area. Their significance is not that of being a “hot” pepper, but having a unique flavor unlike any other.
After a web search I found this interpretation of the history of Datil Peppers on Mr. Raymond Powers’ “PureFlorida” blog.
“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.”
Mr. Powers’ went on to say that, “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.”
If you would like more information or even to buy seeds to start plant, check out Mr. Powers’ blog. And thanks to our local farmers for keeping the traditions alive.