Some are hot, some are not.
In Spain, those small, green, wrinkled, salty and smoky peppers served as tapa are usually called pimientos de Padrón. Elsewhere, people have named them ‘Russian roulette peppers’, because while most are mild, around one in ten is fiery – or as the Spanish say unos pican otros no: some are hot, some are not.
Padrón is a municipality in Galicia in northwest Spain, although legend has it that the little peppers were brought from South America in the 16th Century by Spanish monks who grew them at their monastery in the tiny hamlet of Herbón – and the name Pimientos de Herbón now has protected status in European law.
Spanish Tapas Bar in London
Whatever their history, Padrón peppers are a staple on the tapas menus in restaurants across Galicia, Spain and in tapas bars in the UK like El Pirata in Mayfair’s Down Street.
Fresh Padrón peppers are usually pan-fried or blistered in a hot skillet with a little olive oil and then sprinkled with crunchy sea salt to bring out the sweet, slightly nutty flavour. They’re sometimes served with fried eggs and potatoes, but they can also be pickled, added to salads and pasta dishes or used as a topping for pizzas and in sandwiches.
The peppers are such an important part of Spanish cuisine that they even have their own festival: the Festo do Pemento de Herbón in which prizes are awarded in categories including Silver Peppers, New Pepper Grower and Wise Pepper Grower and there are prizes for the best decorated tractors, sampling of Herbón peppers, music and dancing. Flowers are offered to the statue of the Pementeira (pepper grower) and there is, it almost goes without saying, a grand parade. It’s quite a day out apparently.