Saturday Spotlight – Scotch Bonnet (Bishops Cap) Chillies

Names of edible plants can be particularly confusing at times and none more so than these chillies.  Very similar in shape and taste profile to the chillies known as Bishops Hat/Cap/Crown elsewhere in the world these chillies are sold as “Scotch Bonnet” in Australia.  Well maybe not even the whole of Australia but by the seed company I bought seeds from a few years ago.  Now this wouldn’t be particularly confusing except that the chillies that are known as Scotch Bonnet in the UK and probably elsewhere are quite different.  My chillies are pictured below:

Chillies

What are known as Scotch Bonnet in the UK are Capsicum Chinense (according to The Chileman), which is the same species Habaneros belong to.  They are generally incredibly hot ferocious things (when I lived in the UK I once had a unfortunate experience when preparing a large volume of Scotch Bonnets without wearing gloves – OUCH).  My “Scotch Bonnets” on the other hand are much more placid creatures with a mild (and occasionally medium) heat.   Complicating the issue of identification is that fact that these seeds were sold as Capsicum annum whereas Bishops Hats/Caps/Crowns are Capsicum Baccatum.  To me the flowers look more like Baccatum – they have the yellow spots on the flowers that generally distinguishes the species.

Bishops Cap flower and fruit

So what are they?  I think they are Capsicum Baccatum that were missold and so from now on I will refer to them as Bishops Caps.   I did a quick trawl of the seed sites in Australia and a couple were selling seeds with very similar looking fruit to mine as ‘Scotch Bonnet Capsicum Annum’.  As a result my feeling is that if you are looking for a really hot chilli you are better off getting some Capsicum Chinense seeds but if you are looking for a milder chilli then these are great.  Note: Some people believe that Capsicum Chinense should be classified as Capsicum Annum so Chinense is occasionally sold as Annum.  Confusing or what?  And I would point out at this point that whilst I have spent a bit of time researching this my reading is in no way comprehensive so I might be wrong on any or all of the above points.

Regardless of what they are called I use most of my crop to make Sambal.  They are the perfect heat for Sambal.  Not so hot that you have to use the sambal really sparingly, but not so mild that you have to use half the jar just to get a bit of heat.

 Sambal

I tend to grow my Chillies generally and Bishops Cap, in particular, in pots.  This is because chillies overwinter pretty well in Melbourne’s climate and I find it easier to keep perennial plants out of my beds.  I have two Bishops Cap plants about to go into their fourth winter.  I find this particular chilli pretty cold tolerant and it generally produces crops well into June.  The plants then become dormant until the following Spring.  In some colder years they have lost all their leaves during their dormancy but in milder years the leaves stay on the plant (albeit looking a bit sick and yellow).

Scotch Bonnet

I find that the leaves regrow in mid Spring with fruits forming in late summer.  Fruits start out light green ripening to red over a period of weeks.

Bishops Cap growing

I pick all my crop red as I prefer the flavour.  I have stuffed these peppers with cheese and baked them and really enjoyed them.  They were hot but sweet and not so hot as to be unpalatable.

If you live in Australia (except Tasmania and Western Australia – I don’t know if I’m allowed to send seed there, many of the seed companies dont) and would like some seed then I should have some in a few weeks.  Let me know in the comments or email me with your address at Liz@suburbantomato.com.

I have created a page (above, just below the header) with an Index of all the Spotlights to date.   I will add links to any new posts below and in next weeks post as well as ensuring they appear in the Index.  Let me know if you write one by leaving a comment.

New Spotlights last week were:

Tronchuda Beira (Portuguese Cabbage/Kale) – From Seed to Table

Australian Butter – Climbing Beans – My Little Garden Project

And for this week:

Baby Blue Jade Corn – Kebun Malay-Kadazan Girls

Giant Winter Spinach – Our Happy Acres

Prosperosa Eggplant – Beks Backyard

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26 Responses to Saturday Spotlight – Scotch Bonnet (Bishops Cap) Chillies

  1. Frogdancer says:

    Yes please!
    (You’ll be inundated!)
    I overwintered my chilli plant last winter, more as an experiment than anything else as the chillies are by far too mild. It worked though and the bush is looking healthy, with a little new one off to the side. (Always the way… if I’d WANTED it to grow it would’ve curled up its toes and died!)

  2. Michelle says:

    I think you’re right about them being baccatum rather than annuum, the flowers and their cold hardiness seem to me to indicate such. The only other pepper variety that I’ve had experience with that endures winter so well, actually better, is C. pubescens, Manzano aka Rocoto. My Yellow Manzano is going into its 5th year now, looking rather bad at the moment with a lot of frost kill in its extremities but coming back strong from the lower parts. Most of my baccatums bit the dust this winter, except for my beloved Aji Angelo, it’s putting on a good bit of new growth. Also, I’ve never seen an annuum with that distinctive shape. I like to dry my baccatums and grind them into flakes, they’re much more flavorful than the storebought pepper flakes and not too hot.

    • Liz says:

      I will give some flakes a try – great tip. I have a Rocoto which I grew from seed this year but so far it has yet to fruit. I plan to seek our Aji Angelo on your recommendation. Having said that I am reaching my chilli quota – so many varieties, so little space to put them.

  3. You’ve had a great harvest of those this year Liz, they look really good. I was just pondering today what to do with my chillis (which aren’t as exotic as yours), so I checked out your Sambal recipe and will try making some tomorrow, thanks!

    • Liz says:

      I find the sambal keeps really well. I store the jars in the fridge and they seem to keep for at least a year stored that way.

  4. foodnstuff says:

    Well, I certainly am confused! I love the shape of these and have always wanted to grow them just for that, but I hate hot food and never grow chillies. I might have a go next season in any case, as I have friend who loves hot things and I can give them to her.

    That sambal looks very inviting, though!

    • Liz says:

      They are pretty mild so if you did want to have a go at a chilli they would be a good one to try. Let me know if you need any seed.

  5. JohnMich says:

    Well that certainly confused the issue! Well done! LOL
    I had a bit of a look at chilli websites and regardless of the name, they all agreed that this was an excellent chilli for the home user – heat and taste. Another good choice, Liz

  6. Dave says:

    That made for some interesting reading! It is great that you have a variety, whatever its name, that will keep growing for you for several years. And one that is useful in the kitchen. Your Sambal looks pretty good to me (and mind you it’s breakfast time here), nice and fresh. I’m growing my first baccatum this year, thanks to Michelle’s kindness to share some Aji Angelo seed with me. I have high hopes of it starring in some hot sauce creations here this year.

    My spotlight this week is on Giant Winter spinach, which also goes by Gigante d’Inverno. Thanks again for hosting this series. I am learning a lot by reading about all these different varieties!

    • Liz says:

      I’m really enjoying the series too – there are some really interesting veg varieties out there aren’t there? I have had Aji Angelo recommended in the past so I was planning on seeking out some seed.

  7. Such an interesting looking chilli… am impressed with your sambal… I would cherish trying my hand on growing this chilli if I can only lay my hands on the seeds… their shape is so cute looking… 🙂
    My favorite chilli at the moment is the Jalapeno… thick flesh, and not too hot…

    • Liz says:

      Is it OK to send seeds to Japan or will customs confiscate them? I would be happy to send some if you are confident that they will get through.

  8. Daphne says:

    Your post makes me really miss peppers. I grew Scotch bonnets for the first time the year I found I couldn’t eat solanaceae crops. I was so sad not to be able to try them. I had bacterial wilt in my pepper patch that year and they didn’t seem affected by the disease like the other species were.

  9. Bek says:

    Lovely! I’m not much of a chilli grower (capsicums and eggplants are my failing!) but I do love to eat it. Your sambal looks delicious! I think I will have to try overwintering and give growing in pots a go as well and see if I have better success.
    I’ve also done a Saturday Spotlight on Prosperosa eggplants. Thanks for some weekend blogging inspiration! 🙂

    • Liz says:

      I find that pots work really well, they seem to tolerate even fairly small pots although it does affect the yield if they are restrained too much.

  10. Mark Willis says:

    Hmmm, yes, the chilli scene is truly confusing – and confused. Some vendors get it completely wrong! I haven’t sowed any chilli seeds yet this year, but now that I have the Grow Light House, I plan to rectify this next weekend. I have seeds for 13 different (commercially sold) varieties this year, and loads of self-saved ones, including some I picked up on holiday in Turkey last year, but I don’t think I will be able to grow that many – especially since I want to do some Sweet Peppers too. I have some of those “Cardinal’s Caps” or whatever – similar to yours – so it will be interesting to compare notes.

    • Liz says:

      I do look forward to reading about your Cardinal’s Caps – they are one of the most cold tolerant varieties I grow so I imagine they should do well for you.

  11. These chillies look fantastic! Our garden has slowed right down at the moment ad I’m just waiting until next week to get a bunch of Autumn plants in the ground.

    • Liz says:

      I have quite a few more ready to go but I’m in that in between stage where I don’t want to pull out productive plants but I need to put the new ones somewhere.

  12. Sarah says:

    I saw the title of your post and assumed you were writing about habaneros – just goes to show how easily confusion sets in when the same name is used for different plants (or different names for the same plant…) But then it sounds like with chillies, the Latin names can lead to confusion too!

  13. Pingback: Harvest Monday – 3 February 2014500m2 in Sydney | 500m2 in Sydney

  14. Elizabeth says:

    thank you so much for this, our baccutums flourish in our cold solar glasshouse and survival our very cold winters in Gundaroo. We just call them Bill’s chillies as a friend down the coast called Bill gave the seeds to us. He said they were perennial but we were still surprised when they popped up again at the end of winter. We thought at one stage that they were Scotch Bonnets but they are far too mild. The flesh has little heat but the pith and seeds are hot. We also read that they are also known as peri peri. Anyway if you want some heat use all the chilli.

    thanks for your very informative website. Elizabeth

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