Summer is on its way, but in the meantime, foodies dabble with the locally grown datil pepper to stay warm on chilly days.
The yellow, lantern-looking chili is one of the city’s most glorious spicy gifts that elevates the flavor of any food, and its secret ingredient may also replace the Tylenol sitting in the bathroom cabinet.
What’s in the spicy pepper world is a datil?
Datils are like the cool cousins of habaneros and tabasco peppers. They all belong to the temperamental Capsicum family known for its flaming punches.
The exact origin of the datil is a mystery, but relatives of the little chilis trace back to the Caribbean islands. Pepper experts speculate that Minorcan immigrants introduced the datil in the 18th century. They traveled across the Atlantic through the Caribbean Sea and eventually to the beaches of North Florida.
Lucky for the datils, St. Augustine’s warm, salty, and humid air is the perfect home for the little peppers to grow and prosper.
Home cooks dabble with the datil
The pepper made its way into the kitchens of home cooks who concocted various sauces, jams, and dried spices to add a kick at the end of each dish.
Datil pepper jams and sauces from St. Augustine Sugar and Shells, LLC. Credit: Abigale Kreinheder
Mike O’Steen, was one of those pepper creatives. O’Steen took a leap of faith in the datil and created Minorcan Mike’s Datil Pepper Products. The original homemade datil sauce became a hit after bringing it to a Jacksonville Jaguars tailgate about five years ago.
The former UPS driver began to gift people his sauce as he made deliveries, and the sauce eventually took flight. They now manufacture datil jelly, mustard, salsa, and sauce for Northeast Florida restaurants and shops to keep the family recipe enjoyed locally.
The old recipe his grandfather scribbled on the back of a newspaper is now a mouthwatering masterpiece hailed as one of the best in St. Augustine.
The Datil’s secret ingredient
Minorcan Mike’s spicy datil mustard on Kielbasa and St. Augustine Datil LLC’s Datil Raspberry Jelly on a PB n’ J sandwich both have an unmatched kick of flavor and unique health benefits.
The datil is St. Augustine’s secret ingredient, but inside the pepper is the true secret element. Peppers like the datil may knock someone’s socks off but also help them pull them back on without pain.
Capsaicin is the active component in all Capsicum, creating a hot sensation when eaten. The fiery compound is a chemical irritant that activates a pain receptor in the nervous system. The brain is then signaled to feel a burning sensation.
The heat from ingesting or topically applying Capsaicin can help with medical issues, including pain, inflammation, and digestion problems.
Datil peppers themselves are not used to create topical creams or capsules. However, the peppers can still have an effect when ingested due to the unique active ingredient.
The datil pepper is more than a tasty secret ingredient, it’s a magical health benefactor. The datil is truly a hidden gem. Next time you need Tyleonol, buy a datil pepper plant instead!
It’s a hot one
The pungency of the pepper is for heat lovers. At first taste, the pepper doesn’t seem like much, but the heat will kick in after a few seconds.
While the pepper is tiny, the spice is overwhelmingly hot, measuring at 100,000 to 300,000 on the Scoville spice scale. The spicy funky yellow dinky peppers can steam the ears, but the tangy aftertaste makes the taste buds jump.
Datil pepper fanatics even enjoy throwing some into stews and soups for the extra kick at the end of a spoonful.
Be warned, datils are like a backstabbing friend, they’re sweet at first, and then they’re not. Datil-infused foods are sometimes disguised as regular run-of-the-mill products. Datil-infused bee honey lets the natural sweetness of the pepper emerge, hiding the spice at first, but after a few seconds, you’ll feel the burn.
Young, yellow, lantern-looking datil peppers growing in a home garden. Credit: cldemara/Shutterstock
First-time tasters should be warned that the datil pepper is quite spicy after a few seconds of sweetness, so have a camera nearby to capture the shocked facial expressions.
The datil pepper gives St. Augustine a unique flare. The rarity of these pepper dishes outside of St. Augustine makes dabbling with the datil distinctive to this city. The flaming taste and secret benefits give all the reason and more always to keep a bottle of datil sauce in the cupboard.