It is a small member of the Capsicum genus. It grows in Uganda, Malawi, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, the tropical forests of South Sudan & the highlands of Ethiopia. It was brought to Goa by the Portuguese.
Plants are usually very bushy and grow in height to 45–120 centimetres, with leaves 4–7 cm long and 1.3–1.5 cm wide. The fruits are generally tapered to a blunt point and measure up to 8 or 10 centimetres long. Immature pod colour is green, mature colour is bright red or purple. Some varieties of birdseye measure up to 175,000 Scoville heat units.
Like all chilli peppers, piri piri is descended from South American cultivars, but Piri piri has grown in the wild in Africa for centuries and is now cultivated commercially in Zambia, Uganda, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. It grows mainly in Malawi, Zambia, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It is cultivated for both commercial food processing and the pharmaceutical industry. Cultivation of piri piri is labour intensive.
Piri piri sauce
Piri piri sauce (used as a seasoning or marinade) is Portuguese in origin and “especially prevalent in Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa”. It is made from crushed chillies, citrus peel, onion, garlic, pepper, salt, lemon juice, bay leaves, paprika, pimiento, basil, oregano, and tarragon.
Recipes vary from region to region but the common ingredients will be the chilli, lemon, oil, red bell peppers and garlic. Today it can be easily made in a blender.
See our Piri Piri Sauce recipe