Capsicum pubescens
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Capsicum
C. pubescens
Binomial name
Capsicum pubescens
  • Brachistus lanceifolius Miers
  • Capsicum annuum var. violaceum Voss
  • Capsicum lanceifolium (Miers) Kuntze
Rocoto pepper
HeatLow to Very hot
Scoville scale2,400- 250,000 SHU
Countries in which C. pubescens is grown

Capsicum pubescens is a plant of the genus Capsicum (pepper). The species name, pubescens, refers to the hairy leaves of this pepper. The hairiness of the leaves, along with the black seeds, make Capsicum pubescens distinguishable from other Capsicum species. Capsicum pubescens has pungent yellow, orange, red, green or brown fruits.

This species is found primarily in Central and South America, and is known only in cultivation. It is consumed fresh, as a paste, dried, or ground. It is called rocoto (Quechua, rukutu, ruqutu') in Peru and Ecuador, locoto in Bolivia and Argentina (Aymara, luqutu), and in Mexico manzano (Spanish for "appletree") pepper for its apple-shaped fruit. Of all the domesticated species in the family Capsicum, it is the least widespread and most genetically distinct.[2]


Vegetative characteristics

Like all other species of the genus Capsicum, plants of the species Capsicum pubescens grow as a shrub, but sometimes as climbing plants. They grow into four-meter woody plants relatively quickly, and live up to 15 years, which gives them, especially with age, an almost tree-like appearance.[3] After initial growth, the plant branches at a height of about 30 cm for the first time, and further growth divides into a bushy appearance. More shoots develop from the leaf axils. Some varieties have purple discoloration on the branches, as can be observed in other Capsicum species. The leaves have a 5–12 mm long petiole and a leaf blade ovate to 5–12 cm long, 2.5 to 4 cm wide, tapering at the top and the base is wedge-shaped.[4]

In addition to the relatively long life, Capsicum pubescens differs in many other characteristics from related species.


The flowers appear singly or in pairs (rarely up to four) on the shoots, and the branches are at about 1 cm long flower stems, which extend on the fruit to around 4–5 cm. The calyx has five triangular pointed teeth, which have in the fruit a length of about 1 mm. A characteristic different from other cultivated species of the genus Capsicum is the blue-violet-colored petals, brighter in the centre. The anthers are partly purple, partly white.[5]



Capsaicinoids (capsaicin) are naturally occurring phytochemicals responsible for the heat in chili peppers.[citation needed] While other chili varieties are dominated with up to 80 % by capsaicin, C. pubescens has an almost equally high concentration of dihydrocapsaicin.[6]

C. pubescens is a domesticated chili pepper that has not been explored extensively for its phytochemicals.[7] While some types of C.pubescens are considered mild, other varieties are some of the hottest peppers. The pungency level varies according to two different studies between 2400-31,000 Scoville scale, 15,000-80,000 Scoville scale and 50,000-250,000 Scoville scale.[6][8]

C. pubescens is a poor source of carotenoids and has a low amount of ascorbic acid and total polyphenols compared to Capsicum annuum. Furthermore, removing the seeds of this pepper during food processing reduces the total polyphenol content by 50%.[9]


The growing interest for this species is related to its cucumber aroma.[10] The aromatic structure of C.pubescens is different than that of other chili peppers. Four aromas are dominant in the odor profile: green, cucumber, earthy-peas, and paprika or bell pepper, due possibly to the higher amount of sulfur and nitrogen compounds (pyrazine) and cucumber-like aldehydes with a low contribution to esters and ionones.[11] The aromatic differences between C. chinense (a commonly used chili pepper) and C.pubescens is the contribution of several ionone esters and ectocarpene. This explains the exotic, fruity aromatic character of C. chinense, which is presented only in small quantities in C. pubescens. [12]


Food properties

The fruits of Capsicum pubescens are a versatile food in South American cuisine. The flesh is thicker than that of other chilis, closer to the consistency and size of bell peppers.[13] The level of spice is comparable to other common known chilis, with 50,000 to 250,000 Scoville Heat Units recorded.[14]

Fresh uses

The seeds and the white membranes, which contain most of the spice, are cut out. It is advised to wear gloves when handling Capsicum pubescens. To reduce the spiciness the fruits can be boiled.[15] The prepared rocoto chilis are used for a variety of dishes. Rocoto relleno is a popular dish in Arequipa, a city in the Andes of Peru. The hollowed out and boiled rocotos are filled up with a mixture of ground beef, onions, garlic and spices. It is topped off with a piece of cheese and baked in the oven.[16] The fruits of the Capsicum pubescens are also used as additions to other meals. Chili paste is made by mixing the chilis with oil. Chili cream is made by mixing rocoto chilis with fresh cheese. Aji de Huacatay is a green sauce which contains green rocoto chilis and is served typically with potatoes. Additionally, rocotos are used for fresh salsas.[16]

Processed uses

Due to the thick flesh and the high moisture content, drying of peppers solely with sunlight is not as effective as with other species of Capsicum. A closed drying tunnel can reduce the moisture of 80 kilograms of fresh rocoto to 6.4 kilograms of dried rocoto.[17]

Origin and distribution

Capsicum pubescens is native to Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, dating to pre-Incan times. Traces of its presence have been found in the Guitarrero Caves. The existence of Capsicum pubescens was documented by ancient Peruvians of the Paracas, Nazca, Moche, and Chimu cultures, through textiles, ceramics, and domestic remains. Capsicum pubescens is likely to belong to the oldest domesticated plants in the Americas, its domestication dating back to 6000 BC.[2] Capsicum pubescens is believed to have evolved from other, more primitive wild Capsicum species occurring in the same area.[18] Of all the domesticated species of peppers, this is the least widespread and genetically furthest away from all others.[2] It is reproductively isolated from other species of the genus Capsicum and forms a distinct genetic lineage.[18] In the early 1900's Capsicum pubescens was introduced to Indonesia where it is now grown along other Capsicum species. The routes of introductions remain unclear, as Capsicum pubescens is found on multiple Indonesian islands. A white flower mutant of Capsicum pubescens is widely distributed in West and Central Java, which differentiates it from the normally purple flowering plants.[19]

Capsicum pubescens is rare outside of Central America, being found in cultivation primarily in Bolivia and Peru where it likely originated. It is commonly cultivated from Mexico to Peru, as well as in Indonesia.[2][19] The plants are usually grown at small scale in courtyards and family gardens, and only surpluses reach markets.

Given its cold tolerance, Capsicum pubescens grows at higher elevations than other species, and cannot survive the tropical heat in the lowlands.[20] However, Capsicum pubescens is not frost-tolerant and requires a long vegetation period of about 9 months.[18] These climate requirements are the main challenges for introducing it to other locations.



The Viru and Lambayeque valleys are the main production areas, 1000 km north of the capital of Peru.[21] In the Netherlands, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers share more than 90% gross area of greenhouse production.[22] Between April and November, C. pubescens is grown in greenhouses in the Netherlands. In the rest of the year, it has limited availability, and is grown in Spain or Italy.[23]


C. pubescens is genetically different and unique in Capsicum, as it is the only one to tolerate cooler temperatures. A clear temperature difference during the day (15 °C) and at night (8 °C) is preferred, which is similar to the mountainous regions of Peru and Bolivia.[24] However, frost and high heat cause serious damage.[23]

Cultivation methods of C. pubescens include growing in a nursery for 1 to 1.5 months in early February, then planting in the field when there is no frost risk, generally around March. Potassium, magnesium and zinc are used after transplantation, or after branching or flowering, and are generally applied once every 2 months after harvesting began. Some farmers cultivate C. pubescens among tea trees, C. annuum, or other crops.[25]


The plants resist pests in Europe. However, C. pubescens is the host plant of Anastrepha ludens (Mexican fruit fly).[26] A. ludens is one of the most threatening pests of Anastrepha. It is considered an A1 quarantine pest by EPPO (European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization).[27][28] Thus, the importation of fresh C. pubescens is restricted by many countries, and only frozen and manufactured import food are authorized in European market.


The plants are resistant to several diseases, including the oomycete pathogen Phytophthora capsici, a severe pathogen of pepper production over the world, causing more than $100 million in losses annually.[29] C. pubescens has a thick waxy cuticle which becomes detached during the infection process, called pealing pealing disease in the areas around Oxapampa, Peru.


C. pubescens matures at least 3 months after flowering,[24] with harvesting 3 to 8 months after transplantation into fields.[25] Fruits were collected weekly every 2 weeks, and the harvesting is continued for 2-3 years, up to 5 years before the occurrence of diseases. Yields produce approximately 0.5 kg per plant per harvest, from up to 40 chilies for one meter tall.[24]


See also


  1. ^ "The Plant List".
  2. ^ a b c d Bosland, P. W.; Votava, E. J., eds. (2012). Peppers: vegetable and spice capsicums. doi:10.1079/9781845938253.0000. hdl:10568/99587. ISBN 9781845938253.
  3. ^ Kosmix Staff, None. "Rocoto Pepper". Chilli Articles. Retrieved 7 May 2011.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Duffy, Jim. "Capsicum Pubescens". Chilli Guides. Refining Fire Chillies. Archived from the original on 2015-02-21. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  5. ^ Livsey, Julian. "Capsicum Genus Guide". Chileman Guides. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  6. ^ a b W. Meckelmann, Sven; Jansen, Christian; W. Riegel, Dieter; van Zonneveld, Maarten; Ríos, Llermé; Peña, Karla; Mueller‑Seitz, Erika; Petz, Michael (29 July 2015). "Phytochemicals in native Peruvian Capsicum pubescens (Rocoto)". Eur Food Res Technol (. 241 (6): 817–825. doi:10.1007/s00217-015-2506-y. S2CID 98994557.
  7. ^ Collins, M.; Bosland, P. Rare and Novel Capsaicinoid Profiles in Capsicum (Volume 13 ed.). Capsicum and Eggplant Newsletter. pp. 48–51.
  8. ^ Kollmannsberger, Hubert; Rodrıguez-Burruezo, Adrian; Nitz, Siegfried; Nuez, Fernando (28 January 2011). Volatile and capsaicinoid composition of aj´ı (Capsicum baccatum) and rocoto (Capsicum pubescens), two Andean species of chile peppers. Wiley Online Library.
  9. ^ OBOH, G.; ROCHA, J.B.T. (2007). "Distribution and Antioxidant Activity of Polyphenols in Ripe and Unripe Tree Pepper (Capsicum Pubescens)". Journal of Food Biochemistry. 31 (4): 456–473. doi:10.1111/j.1745-4514.2007.00123.x.
  10. ^ Rodrıguez-Burruezo, A.; Prohens, J.; Raigon, M. D.; Nuez, F. (13 March 2009). "Variation for bioactive compounds in ajı´ (Capsicum baccatum L.) and rocoto (C. pubescens R. & P.) and implications for breeding". Euphytica. 170 (1–2): 169–181. doi:10.1007/s10681-009-9916-5. S2CID 25545535.
  11. ^ Morales-Soriano, Eduardo; Kebede, Biniam; Ugás, Roberto; Grauweta, Tara; Van Loey, Ann; Hendrickx, Marc (2018). "Flavor characterization of native Peruvian chili peppers through integrated aroma fingerprinting and pungency profiling". Food Research International 109. 250–259.
  12. ^ W. Meckelmann, Sven; Jansen, Christian; W. Riegel, Dieter; van Zonneveld, Maarten; Ríos, Llermé; Peña, Karla; Mueller‑Seitz, Erika; Petz, Michael (29 July 2015). "Phytochemicals in native Peruvian Capsicum pubescens (Rocoto)". Eur Food Res Technol (. 241 (6): 817–825. doi:10.1007/s00217-015-2506-y. S2CID 98994557.
  13. ^ National Research Council (1989). Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes with Promise for Worldwide Cultivation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. ISBN 978-0-309-04264-2.
  14. ^ "Rocoto-Pflanzen". Chilipflanzen. 7 January 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  15. ^ Adams, Mark (8 July 2016). "Top 10: Things to Eat in Peru". National Geographic. Archived from the original on April 12, 2021. Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  16. ^ a b Acurio, Gaston (2015). Peru: The Cookbook. Phaidon Press limited. ISBN 978-3-944297-20-0.
  17. ^ "Chile – In der Heimat der Rocoto-Chili". 19 November 2014. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  18. ^ a b c Krishna De, Amit, ed. (2003-08-15). Capsicum. CRC Press. doi:10.1201/9780203381151. ISBN 978-0-429-22054-8.
  19. ^ a b Yamamoto, Sota; Djarwaningsih, Tutie; Wiriadinata, Harry (2013-06-01). "Capsicum pubescens (Solanaceae) in Indonesia: Its History, Taxonomy, and Distribution". Economic Botany. 67 (2): 161–170. doi:10.1007/s12231-013-9230-y. ISSN 1874-9364. S2CID 63689.
  20. ^ Lost crops of the Incas : little-known plants of the Andes with promise for worldwide cultivation. National Research Council. Advisory Committee on Technology Innovation. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. 1989. ISBN 0-309-56431-X. OCLC 56141084.((cite book)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  21. ^ Peppers: Vegetable and Spice Capsicums. 2000. p. 36.
  22. ^ Breukers, A.; Hietbrink, O.; Ruijs, M.N.A. (2008). The power of Dutch greenhouse vegetable horticulture: an analysis of the private sector and its institutional framework. ISBN 9789086152483. Retrieved 2021-12-07.
  23. ^ a b "Rocoto red". 1 November 2021. Archived from the original on 2021-11-21.
  24. ^ a b c "Rocoto plants". Archived from the original on 2019-10-14.
  25. ^ a b Yamamoto, Sota; Djarwaningsih, Tutie; Wiriadinata, Harry (1 February 2016). "Distribution and Cultivation Practices of Capsicum pubescens on the Islands of Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi, Indonesia". The Journal of Island Studies. 17: 67–87. doi:10.5995/jis.17.1.67. S2CID 132421012.
  26. ^ "Capsicum pubescens (rocoto)". CABI. 1 November 2021. Archived from the original on 2021-11-21.
  27. ^ "Anastrepha ludens (Mexican fruit fly)". CABI. 1 November 2021. Archived from the original on 2016-01-21.
  28. ^ "EPPO A1 List of pests recommended for regulation as quarantine pests". EPPO. 1 September 2021. Archived from the original on 2018-09-14.
  29. ^ Barchenger, Derek W.; Sheu, Zong-Ming; Kumar, Sanjeet; Lin, Shih-Wen; Burlakoti, Rishi R.; Bosland, Paul W. (June 2018). "Race Characterization of Phytophthora Root Rot on Capsicum in Taiwan as a Basis for Anticipatory Resistance Breeding". Phytopathology. 108 (8): 964–971. doi:10.1094/PHYTO-08-17-0289-R. PMID 29484915.

Further reading