07 Nov2012

In our office garden in Cebu, we have this most amazing bush of siling labuyo or kulikot (sp?)… It’s found a nice spot in the yard, and has grown to roughly 4.5-5.0 feet tall, and currently has what seem like hundreds of fruit. But oddly, instead of starting off green and turning red, they seem to start as a creamy white. It isn’t the first time I’ve seen these, in fact, I had an “albino” chili post before, here. And you cannot imagine the DOZENS of emails I received over the years from botanists, horticulturalists, and seed hunters from ALL OVER THE PLANET who just HAD to HAVE seeds to this unusual variety. Some chefs even emailed, totally intrigued by the aesthetic possibilities of such chilies. I had to shrug and say it was just a single potted plant in our front yard and it had since passed away…

At any rate, I am NOT a PLANTMAN, so I don’t know anything with authority in this area, but I am almost certain this creamy white phase has to do with a lack of minerals in the soil. Locals in Cebu tell me this color fascination is absolutely nothing to be excited about, and that in many parts of Cebu, chilies turn from white to red, no green phase. I must say, however, that it makes for a STUNNING sight when a bush nearly as tall as I am in studded with fruit. I took these particular photos several months ago, but today, the effect is 10 times greater. Oddly, birds don’t seem to touch these chilies, but nearby I have an experimental patch of Thai chilies that turned out much smaller than their original parents (that seems to happen a lot in the Philippines) that birds attack with a vengeance. :)

I like to think of this as my private source of chili for sawsawan. It’s incredibly satisfying to hit the lunch hour, have something simple grilled or fried and realize, “Oh, I need a chili for my vinegar dip” and dash out to pick one or two right off the bush. I really wish I had a green thumb, and could maintain a say 1000-2000 square meter kitchen garden… that would spawn another blog alongside this one… Maybe call it Kitchen Garden Cebu. Like I had any free time left to do that just now… :)

Photo of grasshopper, watching the chilies change color. Now WHEN was the last time you ran around a healthy lawn trying to catch grasshoppers? I used to love doing that as a kid, and in my least PC phase kept them in bottles with the caps punctured by a nail for breathing holes. I wonder how many grasshoppers I inevitably killed as a kid. Now the kids kill animals on their ipads. :( :)



  1. kakesandkandles says:

    Gorgeous! Do the white peppers taste different from the red ones? I remember running after grasshoppers and fireflies too. It took a few trys before I figured out that I had to puncture a hole in the bottle though…….hehehe!

    Nov 7, 2012 | 7:13 am


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  3. Josephine says:

    Instant Christmas decoration, and lucky you! Do they taste good? Strangely enough, they do quite well (in pots) in this inhospitable climate, but never seen the white kind. The babies are pale green, then turn red.

    Nov 7, 2012 | 7:17 am

  4. Papa Ethan says:

    As always, your photos are very refreshing and so pleasant to view first thing in the morning. The accompanying text is always a light read — perfect partners to a good cup of coffee.

    It’s curious how and why the birds, as you said, make a distinction between which chillies to eat. When I was a little boy, I imagined those small red chillies to be the caps worn by similarly tiny elves. =)

    Nov 7, 2012 | 7:22 am

  5. Papa Ethan says:

    @kakesandkandles: according to Mark Miller (a chef who studied anthropology) in his publication “The Great Chile Book,” it was Columbus who was responsible for the confusion between true pepper (genus: piper nigrum) and chili/chile/chilli (genus: capsicum). When he encountered the capsicum, he thought he had found the plant that produced black pepper. After all, he mistakenly believed that he was already in the Indies when he landed in America. That also partly explains why the native americans came to be called “Indians.”

    Nov 7, 2012 | 7:36 am

  6. millet says:

    our siling labuyo are always eaten by red ants, not birds.

    Nov 7, 2012 | 7:57 am

  7. odessa says:

    wow MM they are stunning!!! great for making sinamak indeed!!! i’ve seen such variety as well in the province. They grow a bit more larger and taller than the other labuyo plants my lola had. The chickens are enjoying the siling labuyo (so annoying sometimes they left the plants/ leaves damaged )!! and yes running after grasshoppers and dragon flies in the farm, watching in awe as the fireflies flock in a single tree on a gloomy night and if lucky be able to catch a few and put it in a jar, cover it with banana leaves or plastic tightened with rubber bands and poking a hole on the cover so that they will not suffocate inside…They all die eventually though after a day or two….:( i love reminiscing those times MM when i was a kid, enjoying nature and playtime a lot!

    Nov 7, 2012 | 9:24 am

  8. odessa says:

    bdw MM, i’ve seen the hidden cities extreme episode the other night… the episode was so funny!!! it was so fast…you appear(annoyed because of the late delivery?)and puff! it was over….i thought he will be dining at Zubuchun!!! oh well i forgot to tell you as well that on the October issue of smile mag, Zubuchun was also mentioned by one of d travelers as a must try place in Cebu!!! well, Congrats MM!!! Hope to see you and your resto more on mag and TV….!!!

    Nov 7, 2012 | 9:36 am

  9. Gej says:

    Indeed, what a pleasure it is to be able to pick sili (as well as kalamansi, tomatoes etc. ), fresh from the garden to immediately crush into the sawsawan (sauce), for a home (or office) meal!

    Nov 7, 2012 | 10:00 am

  10. Marketman says:

    odessa, the host and crew of that program did indeed eat at Zubuchon, but that wasn’t in the story line… :)

    Nov 7, 2012 | 11:15 am

  11. max says:

    that is a striking shot. i love hot chillies for sawsawan

    Nov 7, 2012 | 11:20 am

  12. nessa says:

    I used to catch dragonflies when I was a kid. Now, when my niece sees dragonflies, she’s totally grossed out. I find it so sad and wish that children nowadays could still appreciate simple games such as trying to catch insects, etc. (although environmentalists might not agree) :)

    Nov 7, 2012 | 1:30 pm

  13. LizCuy says:

    Beautiful colors!
    I love siling labuyo on the plant and in my sawsawan. And yes, using sili freshly plucked just as you need it is unbeatable in the taste department.
    Funny that you should be doing a post on this when I am trying to grow siling labuyo here in my flat in HK! I have 20 little ones (roughly 2 inches high) that will soon be given out to friends. I hope they will grow well here.
    Recently, while hiking, I passed a little private garden here on Lantau Island that had a bush with chili that were black! I tried my best to inspect it and realized they were such a deep hue of green that they appeared black. Will try to ask for one or two pieces next time I go on that trail.

    Nov 7, 2012 | 2:01 pm

  14. manny says:


    I envy your sili labuyo tree. So full of silis in every branck. Our poor tree, though with just green and red labuyo, is always wanting of more sili as everyone in the house pinches a couple almost every meal mixed with their favorite soy sauce, vinegar, or fish sauce and calamansi.

    Nov 7, 2012 | 2:43 pm

  15. loony says:

    my old workplace in quezon city used to have a sili bush growing right by the main gate. whenever we needed sili for sawsawan during lunch, someone would simply run out to the front and pick a few. so quaint. dunno if the plant is still there though, that was 10 years ago.

    Nov 7, 2012 | 3:21 pm

  16. Betchay says:

    I really dont know if there is any scientific explanation but years ago when it was not that endangered yet, we had a parrot and mynah bird at home. We feed them about 3-5 pcs of siling labuyo daily so that they will become ” chatty and speak clearly”….and they really did! and would you believe—-talk to each other? Swear!

    Nov 7, 2012 | 3:48 pm

  17. Isa says:

    @betchay : there is sort of a scientific explanation, parrots and mynahs (and other birds) don’t produce spit like we do – so they do not feel the heat of spicy peppers. True story! So that’s why they can eat them – even everyday.
    As far as them talking well, that has nothing to do with the peppers and everything to do with their ability to talk plus all the attention they get helps too!

    Nov 7, 2012 | 9:50 pm

  18. nina says:

    We also have few sili plants in bohol which bear cream colored sili. :) alongside sili, its good to have kalamansi in your backyard for sawsawan.

    Nov 8, 2012 | 1:44 am

  19. ka_fredo says:

    I also see smaller versions of that chili plant being sold by ornamental plant vendors. The plants look like they’re growing red and yellow christmas lights. I think I saw another small bush with mini yellow bell peppers too.

    Nov 8, 2012 | 3:28 am

  20. EbbaBlue says:

    I always buy ornamental peppers in pots and they last forever, years and years talaga kahit magtaglamig pa rito sa Texas. I wonder if they are edible, kasi binigyan ko yung neighbor namin, and I myself had put them in some of my dishes, and I am still here.. bloggings.. ummmm

    Nov 8, 2012 | 5:06 am

  21. Getter Dragon 1 says:

    Singing ‘siling labuyo’ to the melody of Oh Christmas tree has a nice ring to it.

    Nov 8, 2012 | 8:02 am

  22. meekerz says:

    What I’d love to know is how in the world do you keep white flies away? We avoid pesticides, and my sili plants always get completely obliterated :(

    Nov 8, 2012 | 9:48 am

  23. titashi says:

    we have a sili plant/bush also in our front yard too, my parents planted it i’m just not sure when. yes it is so cool that we can just pick some whenever we need it for sawsawan. and yes birds seem to like them too! I have been wondering how do farmers keep the birds from eating the chilis.

    Nov 8, 2012 | 12:01 pm

  24. Kenikenken says:

    This chili plant, I think is Capsicum frutescens ‘Tabasco’ cultivar (the chilies used to make Tabasco sauce,) and the Siling Labuyo we are all familiar with is another cultivar of the same specie.

    Nov 9, 2012 | 12:46 am

  25. TheDrunkenPig says:

    Those chilis looks stunning. I love the idea of having a private source of chili for sawsawan and the likes, I hope to grow one too next year.

    Nov 9, 2012 | 11:10 am

  26. britelite says:

    we call it kutitot here in Iloilo.

    Nov 9, 2012 | 5:21 pm

  27. loug says:

    I’ve always wondered if these chilies are edible; why? because in Canada it’s sold as more of a decorative plant with a warning as poisonous- I can understand that it could be a really unpleasant/horrible taste to the inexperienced, but to be labeled as poisonous made me really cringed and wondered if I could even touch them! It’s just a waste see them left frozen or thrown away. I’ve always imagined them looking nicely in a bottle of vinegar and handy for use anytime.

    Nov 9, 2012 | 9:28 pm

  28. corrine says:

    meekerz, do you crush the chilis and mix with water to spray as pesticide? If so, how many grams of chilis per gallon of water? I also don’t want to use pesticide. Thanks

    Nov 9, 2012 | 10:44 pm

  29. Marketman says:

    loug, they are definitely edible. There are lots of varieties of chilies, many of them that look similar.

    Nov 10, 2012 | 7:06 am

  30. ML says:

    My garden will not be complete without Capsicum (siling labuyo). I use it all the time to add zing to my “sawsawan”. The plant will just grow randomly around the house and I would transplant them in pots. However, this year I attempted to grow them from seeds but failed thrice. Personally, growing Capsicum from seeds can be challenging and it took me about four weeks after my third trial before I was able to see the sprouts. Now, I have several seedlings and I am excited for them to grow as I am running out of fruits for my “sawsawan”.

    Nov 26, 2012 | 11:51 pm

  31. francis says:

    We have those chilis in our backyard in Isabela. I guess it is a new variety because when I was little, we only had the tinier green/red, and much hotter, siling labuyo.

    Our chicken love those chilis, as much as we love using them for the “inartem”, a chili infused vinegar condiment.

    Dec 7, 2012 | 12:51 pm


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