A datil pepper is a fruit of the genus Capsicum, which also includes bell peppers, jalapenos, habaneros and all other fruits known as peppers. The datil in unique because it is extremely hot, similar to a habanero, but also sweet and fruity. The name is derived from the Spanish for "date," another type of fruit.
This pepper is yellow, elongated in shape, and between 1 and 3 inches (2.5 and 7.6 cm) in length. If grown outside, datil pepper must be planted when there is no frost. The plant will reach maturity in about five months. The pepper's largest natural threat is a parasite known as the pepper weevil.
The datil pepper has been cultivated by the Minorcan community living in the city of St. Augustine, Florida, since the 18th century. It has been speculated that the peppers originated in the Caribbean, although they only grow in Florida today. Fresh peppers and seeds can be very difficult to find outside of the St. Augustine area, although the plant can theoretically be grown anywhere indoors. Typically, the fruit and seeds are available only from datil gardeners. However, the bottled hot sauces made from the pepper may be found at specialty stores around the country or through online vendors.
Most commonly, this pepper is used to make a sweet but intense hot sauce, and recipes vary widely. One popular sauce is made with tomato paste and other sweet ingredients including brown sugar and honey. Datil pepper is also used in such St. Augustine specialties as clam chowder, pepper relish, and chicken or sausage pilau.
The datil pepper is a member of the chinense species of Capsicum, which includes some of the hottest of all peppers, such as habanero and Scotch Bonnet. All of these pepper varieties have Scoville measurements between 100,000 and 300,000. Consequently, they may be dangerous if eaten raw, with such possible effects as dizziness, diarrhea, heartburn, and a numb or intense burning sensation in the mouth. Care should also be taken when preparing recipes with very peppers not to transfer any of the peppers' juices to the mucous membranes, particularly the eyes.