We have been quite successful in growing Aji Dulce peppers in the VegHeadz garden. We first grew them from seeds obtained at the Leon County Seed Library Program co-sponsored by the Leon County Library, Sustainable Tallahassee, and the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension. Aji Dulce looks like a very hot Scotch Bonnet pepper but is much milder and has a smoky flavor. It is known as the Sweet Habanero and translates to “sweet chili pepper” in English. It is often referred to variously as aji cachucha, ajicito, or aji gustoso.
Schoville Heat Units are the measure of heat in peppers. For instance the Habanero aka Scotch Bonnet registers 100,000 to 350,000 SHUs while the ubiquitous Jalapeno ranges from 3,000 to 8,000. While slightly spicy, the Aji Dulce ranges only from 0 to 1,000 SHUs. Some are just sweet and some are mildly spicy—perfect for salads or salsas, or for pickling and using in sandwiches or stuffing with cheese.
The Aji Dulce is the traditional pepper used in Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean to make Sofrito, a sauce that is used as a base in Latin American, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese cooking. There are many regional variations on the sauce with some adding tomatoes, some which add bay leaves, carrots, or chorizo and other ingredients, but most contain garlic and all contain peppers. It can be used as a base for pasta sauces, sautéed vegetables, soups, stews, beans, meats, rice, or in dips and spreads.
In the tropics this pepper is grown as a perennial. In our area it has a very long producing season but will die back in freezing weather. Start the seeds inside under grow lights in mid-January and set seedlings out after the last frost in mid-March. Grown in compost-enriched garden soil, it takes no special care and matures to a compact shrubby plant about three feet tall and wide with a profusion of 1 to 2 inch peppers which start green and mature into brilliant yellows and reds. A delightful plant.
Here is a Sofrito recipe for your peppers. Many others are available from various sources online.
12 large Aji Dulce peppers1 small bunch cilantro
1 head garlic
1 red bell pepper
½ green pepper
1 yellow onion
1 Tbsp. each capers, oregano and pepper
¼ cup pimento-stuffed olives
½ cup olive oil
Process all ingredients in food processor to texture of semi-chunky salsa. Use at once, refrigerate for up to a week, or freeze in recipe-size batches.