Wednesday, May 13, 2009


This poor little fellow is, as far as I know, the only one of his kind in the State of Texas. It’s a pimiento de padron, a type of pepper grown in Spain and usually served as a tapa. The peppers are about the size and color of a small jalapeno, but thinner walled.

Preparing them is simplicity itself. You fry them in olive oil until they wilt, sprinkle them with salt and then serve. The taste is fresh and bright. Pimientos de padron are easy to make, cheap, delicious, and relatively healthy. The second picture shows them as they are served in tapas bars in Spain. They are just about the perfect snack food.

After a trip to Spain with my wife, I decided I had to try to grow them—because I don’t know of anyplace in the United States outside of New York or San Francisco where you can buy pimientos de padron. I searched the internet until I found somebody selling seeds for pimientos de padron and carefully started them in a hotbox that I had built to protect them against freezing.

Almost four months later I had only this one little pepper. Some of the seeds didn’t germinate. I lost some plants to too much or too little water. By the time I transplanted the pimientos de padron into larger pots I was down to three plants. Two of them immediately died. I still hope this one pepper will grow up and produce a bumper crop for me, because I grew to love eating pimientos de padron.

Such are the chances of life—and pimientos de padron are all about random chances and the vicissitudes of life. Because one of the main attractions of these little peppers, besides their great taste, if that while 90% of them are mild, the remaining 10% are as hot as jalapenos. Sometimes you can eat a whole plate and never find a hot one; sometimes you can get several hot peppers in a row.

You can be chatting pleasantly away and working your way through a glass of wine and a couple of plates of tapas when suddenly you bite into a hot one, turn red, and start sweating—or more amusingly, maybe that happens to one of your friends at the table. The concept of combining eating with a game of chance is enormous fun.

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