You know there are sweet peppers and hot peppers, but did you know about Padron peppers? These little peppers are named for the Spanish town Padrón, where they are popular as appetizers or tapas. They’re harvested at an immature stage, when they’re still green and only 1 to 2 inches long. At this size they are mild (except for the occasional spicy one) and delicious. If they grow just a little bigger, they become fiery hot. Until recently, it was difficult to find Padron peppers in the United States and Canada, but no longer. Now this delicacy can come from your own back yard.
Common name: Padron pepper, pimiento de padron
Botanical name: Capsicum annuum
Plant type: Annual or tender perennial
Zones: 9 to 11 (typically grown as annual)
Height: 2 feet
• Sun: Full sun
• Soil: Rich, well-drained, humusy
• Moisture: Medium to moist
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture and stymie weeds.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertilizer: Add 1 inch of compost when planting and use liquid fertilizer once or twice in a season.
• By seed
Pests and diseases
• Spider mites or aphids may cause some damage.
• Vulnerable to gray mold, fungal spots, and stem rot.
• Plant Padron pepper plants in the garden when both day and night temperatures stay over 50°F. This date will vary widely depending on what region of the country you’re in. Harvest peppers 65 to 80 days from transplanting in the garden.
• Harvest the peppers when they’re green and 1 to 2 inches long. At this size they’re still sweet and flavorful. (But beware: some will be spicy, even when small.) Ones that grow larger will get red and very hot.
• To make your own tapas with Padron peppers, sauté the peppers in olive oil until lightly charred, then sprinkle with salt. Eat while warm.
All in the family
• Other members of the Solanaceae family include edible plants—tomato, potato, and eggplant—and popular garden flowers like brugmansia, datura, and petunia. The family also contains Nicotiana, the genus that contains cultivated tobacco plants as well as annuals grown for their fragrant flowers.
Where to buy
• Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Winslow, ME, 877-564-6697, www.johnnyseeds.com
• Renee’s Garden Seeds, Felton, CA, 888-880-7228, www.reneesgarden.com
• Tomato Growers Supply Company, Fort Myers, FL, 888-478-7333, www.tomatogrowers.com
(Photo of Padron peppers courtesy of Renee’s Garden Seeds)