The Rocoto Tree Chilli is different to the normal varieties of chilli that are commonly sold, which are Capsicum annuum. The Rocoto chilli is Capsicum pubescens, , so named for the fine hairs on the leaves (pubescens = hairy)
They come from Peru and Bolivia, and will form a medium sized shrub with a woody stem, and can live for years. They grow 1 to 2 metres or so in height, and bear a number of fruit, and will even produce them in the colder months if conditions are right. The Rocoto chili can grow in cooler areas such as Melbourne in sheltered positions, as it can handle cold OK, but not too much frost. Best in sunny moist spots, and can be grown in containers. They have purple flowers, fruit matures to red, and they have black seeds.
The fruit is meaty and juicy unlike normal chillies. Biting into them can produce a surprise for those expecting a capsicum, as these chillies are hot! No doubt this is where one of the alternate common names, the Hotlips Chilli, arises.
South Americans make a fantastic salsa or dipping sauce from these, adding tomatoes and coriander and grinding or mincing all together. The thick walls of the fruit make them unsuited to drying, but they are great for using fresh in lots of different recipes, or just for the brave to eat whole.