This weekend I'd like to tell you about one more pepper that I love. Pimientos de Padron are a variety of Capsicum annuum, most often eaten fried in olive oil and dusted with course salt, with a devoted following of eaters originating in Galicia, Spain. These are also known as pimientos de Herbon: I'll explain that in a minute. I'm not sure when they first became well known in the USA but we first began growing them about ten years ago. Our farmer friend at Sugar Pine Farm in Manton sells them at market and finds that once customers discover Padrons they return for more, every week. They are that good!
I like to try and trace seeds to their native origins. Peppers are native to tropical regions in the Americas and were used extensively by native peoples before European contact. These were brought back to Spain by Franciscan monks. Records indicate they were cultivated around 1700 CE in the municipality of Padron in the northwestern province of Galicia, Spain. To provide context the region of Padron is 20 km south of Santiago de Compostela, the ending point for the famous pilgrimage known as El Camino de Santiago. There is a valley region called Herbon within the municipality of Padron. It is in this valley that the pepper first arrived and was cultivated by the monks and local community.
It is a little confusing but European Union law has protected the name Herbon pepper to those grown in the Herbon region of Spain. The variety Padron is grown world wide but only Padrons grown in Herbon can be called Pimientos de Herbon. They must go through a certification process and meet certain quality requirements. So the peppers we grow and sell are Padrons, not Herbns.
Why grow and eat Padrons?
They taste amazing and are exciting to eat! Exciting to eat? Yes. For the most part they are a mild pepper but about 1 in 10 to 20 packs some heat. Growing conditions and maturity can effect their heat. Generally, when grown under drought conditions the peppers will become hotter. They also gain heat as they mature and the seeds develop.
Our favorite way to harvest and eat them is as follows.
1. Harvest peppers young and green at about 2 inches long. Each plant produces prolifically. Continuous harvest encourages more production as the plant keeps trying to produce seed.
2. Heat a skillet with oil to a relatively high temp. I use extra virgin olive but have seen various recipes using a lighter oil for frying and then a finishing drizzle of olive.
3. Place peppers in hot skillet one layer deep and let them blister on one side for about 1 one minute then flip to the other side.
4. Remove and sprinkle with course salt.
Seed Saving basics
As always, pay attention to your scientific names. These will cross pollinate with other peppers that are Capsicum annuum. Usually an isolation distance of about 100 ft in the home garden will ensure that you don't have much cross pollination. Peppers are self pollinated but their flower structures are fairly open and insects will visit them and crossing can happen without isolation. Varieties can also be caged or covered with screen or row cover to keep them separated when distance isolation is not possible.
Harvest peppers for seed when they are large and red. Cut peppers open and scrape out seeds. Dry them well on a screen or plate and save for next year! With a large quantity you can mash them up and water winnow to discard any immature seed. More on water winnowing soon!
There are many recipes to check out and other ways to use these peppers as well. If you have space in your garden it's not too late start Padrons from seed where ever you garden.
Have a great weekend!