Siling Labuyo Chilli Pepper Seeds
Siling Labuyo is related to the famous Tabasco chilli pepper, a variety in the Capsicum frutescens species. Other relatives are Brazil’s Malagueta and Africa’s Peri-Peri chilli peppers. The Capsicum frutescens wild varieties are often called “bird peppers”. In the Tagalog language of the Philippines, Siling Labuyo translates to “wild chilli”. Having small fruit that drop off easily, this variety is easily spread by birds. Other names are Philippines Bird Pepper or Filipino Bird’s Eye Pepper. Siling Labuyo is regarded as an endangered heritage food by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, and is considered a medicinal herbal plant and a natural pesticide in the Philippines..
Growing Tips for Siling Labuyo Chillies
Like most chilli peppers originating from tropical areas, Siling Labuyo seeds like a warm start to get them going. To speed and promote germination, it is helpful to place a heating mat, set to between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius, below the germination medium. This medium should be kept moist, but not wet, until the seedlings appear and while they are are growing.
Seedlings can be planted out at the start of the warm season, either in a container or open ground. The plants will enjoy a partially shaded area with early morning sun. This variety is considered a perennial plant, if grown in a frost-protected location. Once well-established, Siling Labuyo is low maintenance, and will grow well with basic care.
Siling Labuyo is a generous producer, sometimes bearing flowers and fruit in clusters of two or three to a node. Harvest is usually late in the season, at least 90 days after planting. Picking ripe pods regularly is a good idea, to allow the plant to focus its energy on new growth, flower production, and ripening the pods. Because Siling Labuyo can be dried, fermented, or made into chilli powder, there are lots of ways to use and preserve a big harvest.
Siling Labuyo pods grow upright on the plant. This feature distinguishes them from the Thai Bird’s Eye pepper, a Capsicum annum, which bears downward-pointing fruit. The Siling Labuyo plant grows to about a metre high, with a medium number of stems, and is more upright than sprawling or bushy.
The immature fruit is green, usually ripening to red. Some cultivars may be yellow, purple or black. Siling Labuyo pods are small, about 25-30mm long, and only 5-7mm in diameter. They have a conical shape, tapering to a round, bullet-shaped end. Siling tingala, a Capsicum annum / Capsicum frutescens F1 hybrid that is sometimes confused with Siling Labuyo, has longer pods.
Heat and Flavour
Siling Labuyo has an immediate, peppery heat punch that is felt on the whole of the tongue, but dissipates quickly. At 80,000 to 100,000 SCU, it packs a fair bit of heat, and is more pungent and spicy than the Thai Bird’s Eye pepper or Siling tingala. It is great for adding spiciness, without changing the essential flavour of a dish.
Siling Labuyo features in the cuisines of Mindanao and Bicol, which are part of the Luzon Islands in central Philippines. In salsas, sauces, soups, stews and stir-fries, it teams well with papaya, calamansi, coconut milk, vegetables, seafood, poultry and pork. One popular condiment combines onions, garlic, ginger, vinegar and Siling Labuyo pods. Another delicious sauce commonly eaten in the Phillipines with barbecued chicken and rice, is made from crushed Siling Labuyo pods with calamansi juice, soy sauce, and vinegar.
An added bonus of this chilli pepper variety is that the leaves of the plant can be used as a vegetable in dishes such as chicken tinola, seafood soups, and monggo – a pork stew.