Cereja Roxa

It’s thursday again and I do believe I promised you guys a little extra info on one of the things I got at Challock Chilli Fest. So, umm, here it is. A short post on the CGN21500.

Cereja

Or, as I like to call it, the cereja roxa.

It’s a truly beautiful, brazilian chilli that ripens to peach but still keeps much of its protective purple coating – A colour that normally acts like a tan for peppers, shielding them from excessive sun.

This, however, is one of many varieties where the colour is produced regardless of the sun that it gets. Almost irrespective of the weather, the cereja roxa plant will have darker than normal, slightly purple-tinged leaves and its fruit start similarly, “tanning” fully before they eventually turn peach.

But what’s unique about it and its family is that final colour. Between the light peach underneath the “tan” at the end and the peppers’ specific sugar and acid contents, the roxa family is one of very few that is able to keep some of its purple hue into maturity.

No other peppers have quite the same colouration as these three chillies – Cheiro roxa, fidalgo roxa and cereja roxa – so the family is super easy to spot. And it’s not hard to tell which one’s which, either.

Fidalgo roxa is elongated, yet doesn’t taper at the end and has a little knobbliness to it. Cheiro roxa is more stout but has a wide ring up towards its stem, much like the jamaican mushroom pepper and certain strains of scotch bonnet.

roxa
Cheiro left, Fidalgo right, both pictures from fataliiseeds.net

If anything, the cerejas that I picked up are actually the tamest in appearance, with only some of them even possessing slight pumpkin-like lobes. Plenty were just round.

But, of course, appearance isn’t everything and the three of them all have slightly different flavours. To me, at least, the slight floral notes and refreshing quality of the cereja make it superior to the cheiro, so it’s definitely in my top two. Until I try the fidalgo, though, I won’t truly be able to say which roxa is best.

I can, however, give a rough translation of their names:

Roxa, or “roe-sha”, as it’s properly pronounced, is portuguese for “purple”, describing the family’s most obvious trait, while the other half better describes each pepper.

Cheiro, despite sounding kind of like “cherry”, actually means “strong smell”, hinting at the chilli’s more immediate hit of aroma and flavour. It’s often described as “like a slap in the face” but that’s a ridiculous exaggeration, if you ask me.

Fidalgo, on the other hand, is more metaphorical. It refers to the princely feel of the pepper by using a word that’s commonly said to mean “nobleman”. Historically speaking, though, fidalgo referred to someone male who was rich without work – An almost derogatory term for those who were born into wealth and didn’t understand the lower classes. A curious choice for such an innocent chilli but perhaps the brazilians who grew it were jealous of its stunning looks?

And Cereja is my own choice of name, based solely on the shape of the third family member. It’s smallish, round and shiny, resembling many of the common “cherry pepper” varieties in all but colour. So why not call it a cherry?

Cereja, pronounced with an S-like initial consonant and the same H-like spanish J that you’ll find all over my pronunciation guide, is the portuguese for the small, shiny fruit that this pepper resembles. Yet it also has the same latin roots as “cerise”, a word that coincidentally describes the colour that the chilli goes between purple and peach.

And, albeit a little absurd, its “seh-re-ha” pronunciation sounds slightly like “slayer” to my anime-attuned ears. Which makes me smile.

When it was first cultivated, the cereja roxa may well have “slain” people but things have changed a lot in the last seven years. Its slightly below habanero heat isn’t nearly as impressive as it was when habs were the world record holders but it’s still a good level to be cooking with. Or even to shred into salads, if you’re into a high heat.

It fits into a nice spot, strength-wise, but it’s the fruity flavour, reminiscent of plums and apricots, that really makes the roxa peppers special and the combination of light florality and cucumber-like, almost cooling quality makes the cereja stand out even from the rest of them.

This is a specially little chilli and one that deserves all the attention that it can get. The only problem is, human minds aren’t designed to remember long strings of letters and numbers. Even if the taste is memorable, “CGN21500” is anything but.

So, while it seems somewhat arrogant for me to do so, I’ve taken it upon myself to give it a real name. Not for my sake but for the sake of a chilli that I felt was otherwise getting the sort end of the stick.

I sincerely hope that it helps.

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