The Aji Chombo pepper is a type of traditional Panamanian relative to the Scotch Bonnet. Aji Chombo peppers are often confused with Habanero peppers since they look similar and both the Habanero and Scotch Bonnet belong to the same species called capsicum chinense. The heat level is quite high and Aji Chombo is used throughout Panama in native dishes, particularly on the Atlantic coast.
Aji Chombo literally means Pepper Black (black man's pepper), and is derived from the West Indian labourers who brought scotch bonnet peppers with them from the Caribbean Islands to cultivate in Panama. The peppers were made into what is now a traditional Panamanian Style hot sauce heavily influenced by the Caribbean. These hot sauces are typically vinegar based and are commonly referred to as Aji Chombo or Chombo Picante. You will find Aji Chombo on most restaurant tables in Panama, particularly those on the Atlantic Coast where the Antillean descendants make up the majority of the population. There are many different variations as each restaurant and individual has their own special recipe.
The peppers start off green and ripen into a deep orange or scarlet red, are thick fleshed and have a heat comparable to the Scotch Bonnet. These chiles are great for folks wishing to make their own hot sauce as they provide the typical chinense fruity sweetness and good heat.
When fully grown the Aji Chombo plant can grow up to 90 – 120 cm high.