We first discovered Padron Peppers while visiting my cousin Krista in Santa Barbara a few weeks ago. She served them as an appetizer simply pan fried with olive oil, salt and pepper.......they immediately became my new favorite thing.
Since the discovery, I have been on the hunt for these little peppers of greatness. After asking around, I finally found them at the farmers market in Little Italy at the Suzie's Farm stand. Suzie's is a fabulous and respectable local farm specializing in organic produce, look for them!
Padron Chile peppers, pimientos de Padron, are a single heirloom non-hybrid variety of peppers and members of the Capsicum family of Americas. The Capsicum pepper family houses hot peppers, among them some of the hottest peppers in the world (habanero, ghost chile). The heat in Capsicum peppers is directly related to how much capsaicin a pepper contains. The younger the Capsicum pepper, generally the less capsaicin levels. Padron chile peppers are picked immaturely so as to avoid the higher levels of capsaicin, allowing for an entirely edible fruit.
Each Padron chile pepper is unique though similar in shape and size with curved and grooved furrows along their skin. Young padrons are crisp, the color of limes, roughly two inches in length and their flavor savory, grassy, piquant and peppery. It is not uncommon to find a firey pepper in the mix (roughly one in 10), making for a bit of Padron roulette. While there is no visual way to tell how hot a young padron pepper will be, as they age, they will deepen in color and eventually, as in many chile varieties, turn fire engine red and intensify dramatically in their heat level. Thus, it is safe to assume that mature padron peppers will be hot.
Essentially Padron peppers are a finger food. They are most traditionally and appropriately pan-fried in hot olive oil until the skin blisters, finished with sea salt and lemon juice and served stem-on, though the stem is usually discarded. Padrons can be a lively addition to pizzas, salads, pasta, soups, fritattas and rice dishes such as paella. Padrons pair well with creamy sauces, citrus, manchego cheese, other chiles such as smoked chipotles, lobster, shrimp, chorizo, pork, poultry and tomatoes. Large harvests of padron peppers can create the need to pickle or preserve. They can be cooked and preserved, densely packed in olive oil and sea salt or pickled, following basic pickling methods.
The Padron Chile pepper is ubiquitous among tapas bars and restaurants throughout Spain. Since 1979, in the monestary town of Herbon, there is an annual gastronomic event, the Festa do Pemento de Padron, held throughout the entire month of August.
Though the Padron Chile pepper has become the agricultural pinnacle of success of Padron in Galicia, Spain, its historic origins can be traced back to 17th Century South America. The Padron was brought from the New World to Spain in the 18th Century, when Franciscans first attempted cultivating the pepper seeds at their monestary in Herbon, near Padron. Centuries later, Padron's most famous food is its namesake pepper. Seeds from original Padron peppers have been cultivated in rich soils throughout other Oceanic climates. The first introduction of the Padron within the United States was by pepper farmer, David Winsberg of Happy Quail Farms in Coastal Northern California in 1998. Now, California has an abundance of small farms along the coast producing Padrons, making the pepper more consumer friendly on the pocket book as well as giving more people access to the pepper. The Padron, once obscure is now becoming commonplace at summer farmers markets and in the produce section of local grocery markets.