On Oct. 1, about 1,000 people are expected to attend the ninth annual Datil Pepper Cook Off to celebrate the iconic pepper. The Datil Pepper Cook off, as part of the Datil Pepper Fall Festival, is hosted by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension St. Johns County in St. Augustine, Florida.
Attendees will sample an array of datil-themed fare prepared by local restaurants, and experience cook-offs and tasting contests. Those making the journey to this foodie hot-spot should keep in mind that the datil adds more than just a “kick” to a dish, said Joanne Cooper, family and consumer science agent with UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County and cook off festival organizer.
“The datil is as hot or hotter than the habanero pepper,” Cooper said. “During our hot sauce competition, which usually has about 50 entries, there is a lot of milk and bread on hand for the judges.”
However, the datil’s unique “hot-sweet” flavor keeps people coming back for more. Around 5,000 food coupons are sold each year at the festival, Cooper said.
In addition to a variety of datil-inspired foods, the festival showcases the skills of amateur and professional chefs, Cooper said. “Restaurants like to participate in the festival competition because of the caliber of our judges, who are mainly culinary professionals, so winning means a lot to them and to their peers,” she said.
The datil pepper is the official plant of St. Johns County, Cooper said, and not by accident.
The bright green and orange peppers are a classic ingredient in Minorcan cuisine, Cooper explained. So, for the many St. Johns County residents descended from the region’s early Minorcan settlers, the pepper is a pungent reminder of their cultural heritage.
For those who can’t take the heat but love to garden, the Datil Pepper Fall Festival, also held on October 1 and 2 at the UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County office, offers locally made crafts and ornamental plants. Pumpkins will also be available for purchase.
Admission to the Datil Pepper Fall Festival is free. Coupons for food samples at the Datil Pepper Cook Off are one dollar each.
Location: 3125 Agricultural Center Drive
St. Augustine, FL 32092
Schedule: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2
The professional restaurant competition is held Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, email@example.com
Source: Joanne Cooper, 904-209-0430 ext. 4787, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Flander/iStock