History of the Datil Pepper

There are several theories as to how the Datil Pepper landed on our shores. One theory is that the American Indian has been using the Datil Pepper for centuries. The following theory is one of the most popular version.

In 1768, Dr. Andrew Turnbull brought a group of indentured servants to the wilderness of East Florida. The colony was called New Smyrna after his wife’s birthplace and the plan was to raise indigo and silk on the land. Although the group of 1,403 settlers were mostly from the Mediterranean island of Minorca, they also included people from Italy, Greece, Mallorja, Spain and France. They became known collectively as the Minorcans.

Only 1,255 arrived in Florida. Over the next 9 years their suffering continued until 1777 when most of the surviving colonists migrated to St. Augustine where they were granted sanctuary. They were free from their indenture, but their situation had not improved much.

Through the centuries their descendants have had a significant impact on the culture and politics in this part of the state. Anyone who has been in the St. Augustine area for any length of time enjoys many Minorcan customs and dishes - like clam chowder, sausage pilau (pronounced perlow) and fromajadas (cheese pastries).

The Datil Pepper is thought to have been brought to this country by these Minorcans. There is still debate as to where the datil pepper originates, however, it is widely accepted as being brought by these descendants. Currently the University of Florida is researching the origination of this pepper through DNA studies.

Over the years, area residents have developed new and varying used for the datil pepper. Currently there are hundreds of products available to include datil pepper sauces, mustards, jams, jellies, and BBQ sauces. Other uses for the datil pepper include spice cooking.


There is some indication that datil pepper belongs to C. sinense Jacques. This species is most readily distinguished by the three to five flowers at each node, the drooping pedicels, and the circular constriction at the base of the fruit "cap." The plants are 1½ to 2½ feet high; the fruits are from ½ to 4 inches long, varying in shape from spherical to oblong. Most of the other hot varieties of pepper are usually either C. annuum or C. frutescens.