Chile pepper fans, brace yourself for the "HOTTEST Festival in Florida™”!
The 7th Annual Datil Pepper Festival is this Saturday St. Augustine.
Heat enthusiasts face a considerable challenge in the friendly confines of them St. Johns Agricultural Center from festival foods, beverages and desserts, as datil peppers rate from 350,000-450,000 units on the Scoville scale.
That’s hotter than a habañero, though ripe datils boast a sweeter, fruitier flavor.
If you’re new to competitive chile eating, you may not even realize that it’s a competitive sport.
Veterans on the pro-am chile circuit will tell you that it’s all about breaking a sweat, liking vanilla ice cream and knowing when to call it quits.
Chile eating is not for the faint of heart, and the uninitiated must exercise caution as they’re introduced to what hot pepper really is.
The datil pepper – fact versus myth
Not surprisingly, there’s a very close connection between Greater Jacksonville and the datil pepper.
While datils are now grown throughout the United States, most are cultivated right here in St. Augustine, the agricultural epicenter of datil production.
Legend has it that a colony of indentured Minorcan settlers brought the pepper to Florida by way of the Caribbean in the 1700s.
Another camp contends that datils were already grown in the New World in Chile and came north with a jelly maker named S. B. Valls around 1880.
Other datil facts:
- On Sept. 17, 2013, the St. Johns Board of County Commissioners proclaimed the Datil Pepper to be the official plant of St. Johns County and designated the first Saturday in October to be known henceforth as Datil Pepper Day.
- The correct pronunciation of datil is DĂ-tĭl (like the “a” in cat), derived from the Spanish word for the fruit of the date palm.
- Datil peppers are a variety of the species Capsicum chinense.
- The datil pepper has been at the center of Old Florida cuisine since the 1800s.
- A datil plant takes about five months to grow, is 1-2.5’ tall and bears 25-35 elongated yellow-to-orange peppers.
- The datil pepper has been a cornerstone of Minorcan culture for centuries, which helps date its entry into the New World.
Need to know more about the datil?
The Datil Pepper Festival is part of the St. Johns County Home & Garden Show.
Master gardeners will be on hand to give you the all the info about growing datils, cooking datils – just about everything you need to know to enjoy our local datil cult.
You be the judge in the tasting contests. (Coupons $1 apiece.)
Whatever your take on history and the sport of chile eating, you’re bound to learn something new at next weekend’s Datil Pepper Festival, “a celebration of culture, tradition, flavor and heat.”
7th Annual Datil Pepper Festival
- Sat., Oct., 5, 11 a.m., Tastings 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
- Admission: FREE, Tasting coupons $1 each.
- St. Johns Agricultural Center
- 3125 Agricultural Center Dr.
- St. Augustine, Fla. 32092-0572
- Phone: 904-209-0430
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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org