Padrón peppers (Spanish: pimientos de Padrón) are a variety of peppers (Capsicum annuum) from the municipality of Padrón in the province of La Coruña, northwestern Spain. These are small peppers (about 5 cm long), with a color ranging from bright green to yellowish green. Their peculiarity lies on the fact that, while their taste is usually mild, a minority (10-25%) are particularly hot. Whether a given pepper ends up being hot or mild depends on the amount of water and sunlight it receives during its growth. (Wikipedia.com)
A few year ago my husband and I discovered a “new” food. When you eat as much as I do, it’s not easy to run across a flavor you haven’t tasted before, but at La Rambla (local tapas bar in McMinnville, Oregon) we ordered a plate of Padron Peppers. They were flash fried in a little olive oil and salted, served in a pile on a little plate. Nothing interesting, and I’m not a pepper fan so I didn’t bother to try. My husband encouraged me to give them a taste – okay GOADED me to give them a taste and I got the hottest, horseradishy pepper I ever ate. It wasn’t the kind of lingering HOT of a habenero or Asian red chili, but it is intense. But the flavor was really good so I went back for more. And more.
It is difficult to describe how they taste, but it was nothing like any peppers I had ever had. There is a distinctly bitter aftertaste which makes them a wonderful appetizer pair for an IPA or a Tempranillo. They look crispy, but are tender through-and-through. Even the little seeds are soft and easy to eat. I started to deliberately seek them out all our best local restaurants, calling ahead of time to see if they had this common Spanish bar fare on hand – it’s often not on their menus! We often found them at one of our favorite places, Recipe in Newberg, Oregon. But I’ve recently had them at Andaluz in Salem as well. Mmmm…
Next stop in my food obsession was the internet for seeds so I could grow these little beauties. Not only did I want to eat them every week, I wanted to be able to sell them to my local restaurants because NO ONE could get them locally. Genius, no? My 45 little plants barely yielded 2 gallons a week so only our friends at the Blue Goat got to have them. They were wonderful, but almost all VERY hot! That farm soil and my spare watering practices made for better pickled peppers.
This year I grew them again. This location doesn’t have anything like a greenhouse and I had a really hard time getting the little plantlings to grow. I had them alternately in the guest room, on the roof, in the laundry room and on the back porch. Two trays of sad, light-hungry, over-watered little padron babies. One entire tray died on the first hot day of spring. But the rest eventually made it into the garden and exploded! They are lovely plants with LOADS of peppers. I don’t usually advocate growing your own peppers (or tomatoes for that matter) unless you are deeply committed to a variety that isn’t readily available from commercial growers. It’s way too complicated and spendy. But *if* you are putting in a few plants of your own… try these. OR, if you see some in your local market (or on your local froo-froo restaurant menu, buy them immediately. Food treasure. Here’s how to cook them:
- 1-2 cups of washed peppers (stems on), about 25 peppers
- 3 Tbsp olice oil
- pinch of kosher salt
Heat up a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil and peppers, toss to coat the peppers. Try and arrange it so that all your peppers make contact with the bottom of the pan. Leave them without touching for about 5 minutes or until they are popping a bit and start to look browned/blistery on the bottoms. Then shake the pan (and/or flip them over one at a time) so the other side can get browned up, too. 5 more minutes, then turn off the heat. Plop them onto a plate and sprinkle them with the salt. Eat and enjoy!