Pimiento de Padrón are amazingly tasty, tiny fresh peppers originally from Galicia in northwest Spain. The Spanish delicacy often served in Tapas bars, chances are if you have been to Spain you have gobbled up small plates of these in one sitting. The best thing about them is that they are pretty darn easy to prepare and at the same time quite impressive.
Pimiento de Padrón have an elongated, conical shape with curved and grooved furrows along their skin. Young padrons are crisp, the colour of limes, roughly 5cm (2in) in length and their flavour savory, grassy, piquant and peppery. They are usually served when just 5cm (2in) long. The thin-skinned fruits are sweet and mild, but some exemplars can be quite hot, which property has given rise to the popular aphorism 'Os pementos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non' - ‘Padrón peppers, some are hot, some are not’.
Whether a given pepper ends up being hot or mild depends on the amount of water and sunlight it receives during its growth. Typically, there is no way of determining whether a given pepper will be hot or mild, short of actually eating it. Tradition says that one in 30 is a hot one. Typically, the Padron pepper is a mild to hot pepper, ranging from 500 to 2,500 units in the Scoville index. A writer from The New York Times calls the experience ‘Spanish Roulette!’
Padrón peppers can be harvested as early as mid-May when small and sweet. Pick small and green, 4 to 7cm (1½ to 3in) long for the lowest levels of heat. As the chillies get larger and mature to red, the heat increases. Harvest 10 to 15cm (5 to 6in) long for hot red peppers, at this stage, the fruit are thin-fleshed, quite hot and also useful as a spice. Constant picking helps keep the plant yielding.
For an authentic tapas dish, sauté whole young peppers with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Pepper 'Padron' is excellent added to stir fries, stuffed or grilled. They are also excellent for tempura and yakitori.
Sowing: Sow indoors from mid February to April
Peppers need a long growing season. They can be sown February to April but are best sown before the end of March. They flourish in a sunny, sheltered position on a south facing wall, in fertile, well-drained soil or grown in a green-house, in pots or in the ground.
Fill small cells or trays with a good sterile seed compost and sow the seeds on the surface. “Just cover” with a fine sprinkling of sieved compost or vermiculite. Keep the compost moist - don't let the top of the compost dry out (a common cause of germination failure) If you wish, spray the surface with a dilute copper-based fungicide.
Cover the pot or tray with plastic or place in a heated propagator, south facing window or a warm greenhouse. The ideal temperature is around 22°C (72°F). They can be slow to germinate from 21 to 28 days. Remove the cover as soon as seedlings appear.
When the seedlings have produced their first pair of true leaves and are about 5cm (2in) tall they can be transplanted to individual 9cm (4in) pots. Use good quality potting compost and mix in some organic slow release fertiliser. Pot the seedlings on again into 2 litre pots before they become root-bound.
Water the seedlings regularly, but don't let them become waterlogged as this encourages rot. Don't let them dry out as they rarely recover at this stage. Water the soil, not the foliage. Once the plants have established, it is better to water heavy and infrequently, allow the top or the compost to dry out in between watering.
Seedlings should be grown in good light, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight from late spring to early autumn. Weaker sunlight from autumn to spring is unlikely to do them harm. Once seedlings have put on some growth they need lots of light. Growing them under a grow-light produces excellent stocky plants, as will a warm sunny windowsill. Adult plants need lots of light. However, more than 4 hours or so in hot direct sunlight will dry them out quickly.
In May to June transplant to greenhouse border, growbags or large pots. Wait until June for plants that are to be grown outdoors in the ground or in 4 to 5 litre pots
Acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 2 to 3 weeks before they are moved permanently outside. Plant them into rich moist soil. Flowers do not form and fruit will not set if the temperature is much below 17°C (62°F) for most of the day, so wait until June for best results with outdoor planting.
The plants can be left to grow as cordons with supports and just pinch out the top when they reach the greenhouse roof. But the best method is to pinch out the growing tip and produce a smaller bushier plant that will only need a little staking and produce earlier fruits which should ripen easier.
After the first flowers appear, feed every one or two weeks with a half-strength liquid tomato feed. You could also add some Seaweed extract to the water once a week.
Pollinating Flowers: (optional)
The plants are self fertile and will generally pollinate themselves. However, if you want to give them a helping hand to ensure that lots of fruit are set indoors, use a cotton wool bud or paintbrush to gently sweep the inside of the flowers, going from one flower to the next, transferring the pollen. The flower's petals will drop off as the green middle part of the flower starts to swell slightly. This is the pepper beginning to grow.
Harvesting: May to October.
The peppers will take a few weeks to develop and a further couple weeks to ripen. You may pick them off the plant any time after they are fully developed but do not leave them on for too long, as delaying after the pepper is ready for harvest will result in a decline of further yields.
Store in a plastic bag in the fridge for several days, or chop and freeze for up to six months.
They can be dried by putting them into a mesh bag, hang the bag up in a dry, airy, but not sunny spot.
Good Companions: Tomatoes, geraniums, and, petunias.
Bad Companions: Avoid beans, kale, cabbage, and brussels sprouts.
Pimiento is an originally Spanish term that was added to English (a loanword) and is often spelt Pimento. Pronounced pimjento it is a variety of red, heart-shaped chili pepper that has one of the lowest Scoville scale ratings of any chili pepper.
Pimiento peppers are also the familiar red stuffing found in prepared, Spanish, green olives and are commonly used for making pimento cheese,
In Spain they are 'pimjento' while in 'pimentão' is the Portuguese word for a bell pepper.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 20 Seeds Common Name Mild to Hot: 500 to 2,500 SHU. Other Language Names USA: Pimento Pepper Family Solanaceae Genus Capsicum Species annum Cultivar Pimiento de Padrón Synonym Pimento de Padrón Hardiness Tender Perennial often used as an Annual Fruit Ripens from green to red Height Grows to around 150cm (48in) tall Position Grown in good light, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight Soil Rich moist soil. Time to Sow Sow from mid February to mid June Harvest Pick them off the plant any time after they are fully developed Time to Harvest 75 days to harvest