Pimientos de Padrón
Sometimes a simple, local saying captures more than long hours of trudging through scholarly sources. A notable shortcut of that type is the Galcician observation, “Os pementos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non." (“Padron peppers: some are spicy and others are not.”)
Padron are a famous heirloom pepper from Galicia which is a region in northern Spain. It is one of two peppers that play defining roles in some fabled Spanish dishes. Padron’s partner in this pepper dynasty is the Piquillo pepper.
The origin of the Padron pepper isn’t clear. Some sources claim it to be the oldest pepper in Spain and insist it to be a direct descendant of the first peppers brought from the New World by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Its enthusiastic local following in Galicia, however, place its introduction at least a century later and credit its introduction to Franciscan monks.
The fame of Padron peppers is tied to a simple tapas dish. Whole small Padron peppers are fried in olive until lightly blistered. They are then drained and seasoned with coarse sea salt. Eat one. Eat two. Eat a plateful.
Aside from their unique taste, the fun of eating Padron is that some are spicy and others are not. The ratio of hot-to-sweet Padrons isn’t a constant. Most are sweet and all tend to become spicy if allowed to grow much larger than say a ‘big thumb.’ Legend has it that old, “experienced” women can feel a hot one. (Let your imagination drift with that for a moment.) But whatever the precautions a few moderately hot Padrons will make it onto the plate. No matter. It’s the perfect excuse for a sip of wine and a follow-up sweet Padron.
One of my heroes of casual American writing, Calvin Trillin, wrote a short piece about Padron peppers entitled “Pepper Trail.” You can find it and other wonderful stories in “Feeding a Yen.” If you read it and don’t acquire a yen for a Padron, you’re not alive.
These Padron peppers were grown organically in my garden in the Valley of the Moon.
Vegetables of Interest