The Padrone Zone

by Matt on September 7, 2008

Padron-Opener

Sometime last year (or even this year, I forget) I got the nicest email from a reader. Our emails back and forth revolved around peppers and recipes to which he asked if I had ever tried Padrones. Or, Pimiento de Padron, to be correct. I replied that I hadn’t, heck, I have never even heard of them but boy do I love me some peppers. He then went on to tell me how delicious they were, so small and flavorful, with a mild flavor and super soft texture. He does what I’ve come to learn many tapas lovers do (these babies are from Spain, after all): quickly fry in olive oil, remove, sprinkle with salt and enjoy.

Devour, rather.

Anyway, my new friend and pen pal Gary said that he grows them and when he’s got a few on the plant he’d send some to me. I was bowled over by the generosity and have learned never to say so to 1) a new taste and 2) anything anyone grows. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about gardeners, farmers and recreational greenthumbs it’s that they are some of the nicest, friendliest and most giving people ever. Besides, I couldn’t really imagine a stingy selfish grumpasarus taking time to tend and grow anything other than a bad attitude.

Gary kept me updated on the little plants — when they started to grow, when peppers appeared, when the little green things would be ready, everything. And then I came home from work on Friday and found a box on my doorstep. I knew exactly what they were and wasted no time in getting myself into the Padrone Zone.

Padron-Cook-&-Eat

A handwritten note said to heat some oil, fry the soft, supple gems for 2 minutes or so, letting them turn color, burn, even split right open. And so I did. And when that was done I sprinkled them with sea salt and literally inhaled one of the most beautiful, delicious new flavors I have never experienced. I gave one to Adam — ONE — and not because I was being stingy but because I simply ate them all, right then, right there. He said it was the best, softest part of the mildest of anaheims or hatches with a subtle green flavor and I tend to agree. It was so completely delicious and wonderful and I have Gary to thank.

So Gary, THANK YOU! Luckily I saved a handful for today so that I could photograph them. They went down even faster than Batch Numero Uno.

I may try my hand at growing some or quickly ask around to see where I can find them. I’ve never once seen them at my farmers’ market but a quick google search says they can be found. I’m a man on a mission now for sure.

All thanks to Gary!

Coming up: More peppers. I’m hatchin’ it up.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

FranMag September 7, 2008 at 4:05 pm

These look like the pickled peppers that Papa John’s includes with their pizza. I wonder if they’re the same variety. If so, they are extremely tasty and probably much better fresh.

sue bette September 7, 2008 at 5:07 pm

I tried these peppers at a stall at the Portland Oregon farmer’s market with the same simple preparation and they were amazing!! I am definitely going to look into growing them next year!

Mrs Ergül September 7, 2008 at 6:03 pm

New things, nice things!

Lelo September 7, 2008 at 7:26 pm

This is a household of chile pepper lovers, so to be introduced to a new pepper is always a very exciting thing. Last week during the RNC a friend came over to watch (since we had cable and she did not and we all needed to be together to yell and curse at the TV) and she brought a plateful of padron peppers. She sauted them up just like this and while Palin and her big hair spit out venom we devoured these peppers. Not too hot, but just right, they were delicious! Unlike what we were watching on TV. I really need to separate the two though. Obviously. Gorgeous photos. As usual.

jerseybites September 8, 2008 at 12:35 am

I grew several varieties of peppers this year and was so looking forward to enjoying them but some little critter(s) beat me to them. Hate when that happens.

I’ve never seen this variety here in little ol’ NJ.

Kris September 8, 2008 at 4:02 am

Greetings from Madrid! These peppers have a little jingle that goes with them: ‘Pimientos del padrón; algunos pican y otros no’. Because if you get a good variety of them, some should have that earthy green-pepper flavor while others have some heat (less than a jalepeño but enough to get you sweating if you’re used to the mild Spanish palette). These are a favorite of mine, so glad you like them!

Gary September 8, 2008 at 10:25 am

Hi Matt, love the pics of padrones. Glad to share such a great little pepper with you, & just hoping that I didn’t over sell them. Seeds for these can be had at http://www.growitalian.com, where I purchase them. Or another place is gourmetseed.com. Been growing them for 4 years now, perfect dish while I’m preparing the rest of the dinner. Your site always puts a smile on my face, keep it up!

Andre September 8, 2008 at 8:24 pm

I used to eat these in Barcelona and fell in total love with them.
When I came back to the US I couldn’t find them in markets or the seeds, but I’m very happy that people are now starting to get into them over here.

Chris September 9, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Calvin Trillin wrote an article about them (Gourmet, Nov. 1999 according to the web, I believe it is in one of his books as well), which is where I first heard of them. He spent a lot of time in his article musing about how wonderful it would be if they grew in the U.S. somewhere, such as California. It looks like it is starting to happen (but almost ten years later!). I got to try them in London, my cousins got them from Burroughs Market. Now, I just have to get some seeds, since SoCal sounds like the right growing conditions.Lovely pictures…I always have to be eating something while I read your blog. Keeps me from trying to lick the computer screen.

chanelle September 9, 2008 at 3:28 pm

oh, YUM.
can’t wait to see what you’re hatchin’…

jtil September 9, 2008 at 5:41 pm

These almost look like shishito peppers — you know the kind you get at Japanese restaurants, Covered in writhing bonito flakes. I wonder if they’re the same thing, different name. Alamitos Farmer’s Market (Sundays?) might have these…

Sean September 10, 2008 at 10:56 am

Oh I lurv me some padrones! A couple years ago we had some with Cam and Anita, and in true padrones form, 9 of 10 were sweet and yummy, and the remaining 1 was positively volcanic. I love the Russian Roulette aspect. :)

Chez US September 10, 2008 at 11:49 am

We are pepper people & discovered these tasty little morsels about 3 years ago – ever since, I am dying waiting for the season, then I make them ALL the time! Love Love Love! It is fun to eat and wait for that big spicy bite of heaven! Great photos by the way!

The sweetest thing September 10, 2008 at 1:41 pm

Hi Matt!
I love your post about “Pimientos de Padrón”…the village of Padrón is only 70 Km . far from my home. In all that area they produce really good green peppers of delicate taste. They became quite popular in Spain and abroad…. Those peppers are only a good example of the farm and sea produce that we have in Galicia and the amazing galician cuisine.
I’m sure that I can get you the right seeds if you’re interested in.
Thank you!

Jude September 10, 2008 at 7:33 pm

I could never find this anywhere. Been wanting to try it out since I saw it on Jose Andres’ show.

Tana September 11, 2008 at 3:22 pm

We have four padrón bushes this year, and it’s STILL not enough.

I cook mine in a stainless steel heavy-bottomed pan, with just a little olive oil. Then I get out the blowtorch, which is way more efficient, and which gets into the cracks. When they blister and wilt (and even blacken a few), they’re ready.

It’s a myth that one in ten is super hot. I’ve had hundreds, if not thousands, and only have encountered two that surprised me. I love their taste: it’s sort of like squid ink in a certain way.

I can get you some seeds from biodynamic Love Apple Farm, if you like. Man, are they good. Had ‘em last night with steak, mashed potatoes, and a mushroom/red wine reduction. Sell my clothes, I’m goin’ to heaven!

: D

Love your work, as ever.

jai carney September 12, 2008 at 4:48 am

Having lived in New Mexico for ten years, I miss the roasting season and the availability of Hatch chiles in Portland, OR. But, now there is a farmer who is growing the same variety of chiles in Eastern Oregon and bringing them to the farmer’s market in the fall. Can’t wait to get home and fill my freezer with the best chili ever. You should look into getting some dried chili powders from Chimayo NM too! They make everything better, and the best taco seasoning on the planet! Just ask me how!

Ursula September 13, 2008 at 10:37 am

yum, padron peppers are the best, I have been frying them with a bit of olive oil, and adding sea salt once done. For a small vegetable, these peppers are so delicious. I have been eating them all summer long.

jamie September 14, 2008 at 10:00 am

Check out this great piece on the padrone! Local San Francisco chef Chris Cosentino is part of the reason this pepper has become so popular in San Francisco!

http://www.newfarm.org/columns/CSA_journal/2004/0904/padron.shtml

Love the blog, and the photos are beautiful!

Annette September 19, 2008 at 12:54 am

How lovely. I fell in love with Padron peppers when we were in Spain several years ago and lugged home a few bags. I’ve not tasting one since then. I wish I had a friend who grew them! :)

H September 22, 2008 at 7:30 pm

I live in Austin now. A wonderful coincidence when I read your blog for the first time! BUT I lived in Santa Fe, NM for a year during a little break from college. I loved it to pieces. Mostly I loved getting up early (where did those days go?) and going to the farmers market during Hatch pepper season. It was my first exposure to them, but that smell of them roasting…OMG. Heaven for sure. I will never forget those Saturday mornings with cup of joe cruising the market for nothing more than to smell the chils roasting. Thank you for the walk down memory lane.
ps. …i think your blog rocks.

Sharon September 27, 2008 at 7:02 am

I’ve become addicted to Pimientos de Padron after ordering a batch out of sheer curiousity from La Tienda, a company selling all things from Spain (latienda.com). Unfortunately I live on the East Coast in South Florida and have never seen them here yet in a market but I think they’re being grown around San Francisco.

lauren September 27, 2008 at 7:44 am

hi there… love these. Does anyone know where to get them in the greater LA area? thanks…

Jason October 1, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Brand new to the Blog, just read about my fifth post and started wondering, do you take your own photography? Wonderful work! The pictures of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other wonderful foods is so polished and professional. It really adds pizzaz to your prose. Thank you for sharing.

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