I’m not what you would call an adventurous eater—I’d rather jump out of a plane than try some mystery meat or roadside-stand grub. So the only interesting thing I’ve come across in my travels—well, the only thing I’ve actually tried—is a pepper you can only find in St. Augustine, Florida (considered the oldest city in the U.S.). The datil pepper has been cultivated by the Minorcan community since the 18th century and is used to make an intense hot sauce.
The pepper is hot—very hot, actually—but also has a fruitier, sweeter side. It’s part of the Capsicum Chinense species, which also contains the habanero and the Bhut Jolokia, which is considered the hottest pepper in the world. (On some lists, the datil comes in at #4.) The plant typically grows to be around one to two and a half feet tall and bears elongated yellow/orange colored peppers.
I’ve never just popped the pepper in my mouth and since it’s considered one of the hottest peppers, I probably never will, but I use the sauce and the spice mix like I do Tabasco and salt in my everyday life. I put it on fish and to add some depth to eggs or potatoes, but it’s used to make hot wings, relish, clam chowder, butter, and even jelly. A popular commercial sauce is called “Dat’l-Do-It,” which contains brown sugar, ketchup, tomato paste, honey, and the pepper. The datil is also known for its decongestant qualities and there is a toothache tincture the locals swear by.
It’s a one-of-a-kind taste you’ll never forget and one of my favorite things about St. Augustine.
Photo courtesy of beautifulcataya (cc)