Aji Lemon Drop Chilli Pepper Seeds
With its fresh citrus flavour and bright yellow pendant pods (and some heat), this is a chilli pepper that lives up to all the names it’s been given: Lemon Drop, Aji Limon, Hot Lemon. Aji Lemon Drop chilli peppers also go by the names of qillu uchu and kellu uchu. Aji and uchu are general terms for chilli peppers in different parts of South America, where the Capsicum baccatum species originated. Aji Limo is a chilli pepper with a very similar name to Aji Limon (Lemon Drop), and they are sometimes thought to be the same variety. Aji Limo, though, is a different cultivar which is recorded as a Capsicum chinense, with pods that are slightly smaller, more pungent, and multi-coloured.
Aji Lemon Drop is a variety valued for the tang and kick its fresh lemony aroma adds to salsa, ceviche, pastas, soups, curries, stir-fries and sauces. None of the citrusy zest is lost when the chilli peppers are sun-dried and crushed, so they are also traditionally used as a powder or flakes.
The Aji Lemon Drop chilli pepper is well suited to cooler climates, and is hardy, but not frost tolerant. Mature plants reach about 600 or 800 cm high, and are usually tree-like in shape, sometimes sprawling. They have the potential to reward you with a high yield, bearing 40 or more crisp, juicy pods in a season.
Baccatum cultivars vary widely in plant size and shape, as well as pod size, shape, colour, and pungency. One common feature of all the baccatum cultivars is the yellow, green or brown spots on the flower corolla, and yellow-tan anthers – a useful key to identification.
If you are growing Aji Lemon Drop chilli peppers from seed, expect germination to take about 10 days. Some growers soak their seed in water for 24 to 48 hours, just before sowing, to speed the process. It is worth experimenting if you are curious. Using a heating mat to warm the growing medium will help increase the germination percentage and rate. Select a temperature setting of 25 to 30 deg Celsius. When your seedlings sprout, continue to keep the soil moist but not wet. The young plants should be ready to transplant within 6-10 weeks of sprouting.
Aji Lemon Drop chilli peppers grow best in partial shade. Typically, young Aji Lemon Drop pods grow upright on the plant, then become pendant as they mature. On some plants, the fruit might grow in a horizontal position, exposing more of the pod to the sun. Choosing a location where the plants are not exposed to intense sunlight will protect them from sunscald. This shows up on the pods as a soft, whitish, wrinkled area of damaged tissue which can be vulnerable to fungi and bacteria.
If plants start to sprawl as they grow taller, they can be supported with stakes. Depending on growing conditions, Aji Lemon Drop chilli peppers should be ready to harvest 80 to 120 days after transplanting. The more often the fruit is picked, the more plant production will be stimulated, increasing the harvest.
Like most chilli pepper varieties, Aji Lemon Drop has plenty of ornamental value, so it could also be planted in a container and placed not too far from your kitchen. Whether planted into the ground or in a pot, your plant will thrive with a thick layer of mulch (+/- 10 cm), to keep the soil moist. To avoid over-watering, check the soil’s moisture level below the mulch before watering.
Aji Lemon Drop pods have a narrow conical shape and are a bit crinkled. Their colour when young is green, maturing to bright yellow. At maturity, the pods measure between 50 to 90 mm long and about 15 to 20 mm wide.
The walls of the pods have a medium thickness, with a crisp, crunchy juiciness packed into them.
Heat and Flavour
Graded at a heat level of 15,000 to 30,000 SHU, Aji Lemon Drop chilli peppers are at the mild end of the Capsicum baccatum pungency range, which goes up to 50,000 SHU. On the tongue, Aji Lemon Drop could be described as having a medium-sharp heat, which dissipates quite quickly, leaving its fruity, citrus essence to linger.
The flavour of Aji Lemon Drop pairs deliciously with fish and chicken dishes. In Peru, where Capsicum baccatum is widely cultivated, Aji Lemon Drop is a key ingredient in Tigre de leche, Ceviche Peruano and Aji de Gallina.
You can start harvesting Aji Lemon Drop chilli peppers young and green, for use in salsas. The fruity flavour will be there, but probably less of a heat punch. Mature yellow Aji Lemon Drops are also ideal for salsa recipes.
Sun-drying mature fruit is an option if you have an excess of chilli peppers, or even if you don’t. The dried pods can be crushed or flaked to add a spicy seasoning to soups, curries, stir-fries, sauces, or any meal that needs a lemon-heat boost. Freezing surplus fruit works well too. No flavour will be lost, and the softer texture won’t matter if you’re adding the defrosted pods to cooking or making sauces from them. An Aji Lemon Drop sauce has a vibrant golden colour that is warming and appealing, even before you’ve tasted it.