Aji Colorado Chile Peppers
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Aji Colorado chile peppers are thin and elongated and have a straight, conical shape. On average they measure 12 to 15 centimeters long and 1.5 to 2 centimeters wide, depending on when they are harvested. The peppers have thin walls and the skin may be slightly wrinkled. They ripen from green to an orange-red and then to a darker red with a brownish hue when fully mature. Aji Colorado chile peppers offer a crisp texture and a medium heat that quickly fades, with a sweet and fruity finish.
Aji Colorado chile peppers are available in the late summer and into the fall months.
Aji Colorado chile peppers are medium-spicy fruits, botanically classified as Capsicum baccatum. The name Aji Colorado refers most often to the fresh pepper, whereas the dried form is referred to as aji panca. In Spanish, the word Colorado means “colored red”. In the Andean region where these peppers were originally grown, the locals referred to different peppers by color, size, and the geographic location where they were grown.
Aji Colorado chile peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C and is a very good source of vitamins B6 and A. They contain flavonoids that have beneficial antioxidant properties, like lutein and beta carotene, as well as essential nutrients like niacin, riboflavin and thiamin. The peppers also contain minerals like potassium, manganese, iron and copper. The spicy Aji Colorado chile peppers contain higher levels of the compound capsaicin, which research shows has anti-carcinogenic, anti-bacterial, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties.
Aji Colorado chile peppers can be used fresh or dried, as their thin skin is ideal for drying, and will easily crumble into chile flakes. For fresh applications, use gloves to protect hands from the capsaicin, which can cause irritation under the nails. Fresh Aji Colorado chile peppers can be used for salsas or hot sauces and can be added to egg dishes or sautéed vegetable dishes. The red peppers can be used as a substitute for jalapenos when more spice is desired in a dish. In Peru and Bolivia, dried Aji Colorado is either crushed into chile flakes or combined with vinegar and ground down into a paste. The crushed dried, spicy pepper is used in dishes like escabeche, where fish is marinated in lemon juice like ceviche, then sautéed further with oil, herbs and spices. Aji Colorado paste (also referred to as aji panca paste) is used in the Andean dish pachamanca, a meal of meat, vegetables and potatoes cooked in an earthen oven. Dried Aji Colorado chile peppers can be preserved in oil or vinegar. Fresh Aji Colorado chile peppers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Chile peppers are an essential part of local cuisine in Peru. There are over 300 different varieties used in traditional Peruvian dishes. In Peru, Aji Colorado is one of the four main types of baccatum pepper, all identified by their color when mature: aji amarillo or yellow pepper, aji verde or green pepper, aji negro or black pepper, and the red, Aji Colorado. Other Capsicum species grow in the area, though the baccatum are the most commonly grown and consumed.
Aji Colorado chile peppers are native to the region of central western South America that is now Bolivia and Peru. Peppers have grown in this region of the Andes Mountains for over 7000 years. This is where all Capsicum varieties are believed to have originated. There is a bit of confusion when it comes to the Aji Colorado and whether or not it is the same as the aji panca. It is not uncommon in South America to refer to a fresh pepper with one name and using a different name for its dried version. One example of this is aji amarillo, or yellow pepper, whose dried version is called aji mirasol. Fresh Aji Colorado chile peppers are not available commercially and are most often grown by small local farms and home gardeners.