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Padrón Peppers

Brindisa Padron Peppers

“Los pimientos de padrón, unos pican y otros no”

Literally meaning: “some are hot and some are not”; but colloquially this has come to be almost a proverb, meaning, “you win some, you lose some."

This week’s delivery of Padrón peppers has just arrived in our shop at Borough Market, all the way from Galicia in northwest Spain.

What are Padrón peppers?

“Pimiento de Padrón” from the Capsicum annuum family, is the popular name for the Herbón pepper. Herbón is a town in the Padrón municipality, and the peppers can hold a D.O.P. (Herbón) if they are grown and picked within 5 villages to traditional methods. Padrón peppers are tiny, green peppers. In the average plateful, the majority are sweet and mild and the odd one will be fiery-hot!

A little bit of history

There are hundreds of types of Capsicum, many grown in Spain for generations. The Spanish first came across the pepper following the voyages of Columbus. Almeria is now the most intensive growing region, but many types of pepper are variations on a theme which only grow and are enjoyed in a very small area.

Rumour has it that the Padrón pepper was brought to Spain by Franciscan monks from South America in the 16th century. In fact, a similar but slightly larger and non-piquant pepper is the Couto, from the very northwest of Galicia. This is curious because the monasteries of Herbón and Couto are both Franciscan, so one theory is that missionary monks with a link to South America took the seeds with them across Galicia and over time and in different environments, they have evolved into slightly different peppers.

The D.O.P. Herbón area is in the low-altitude valleys between the Sar and Ulla rivers, which are protected and isolated by surrounding mountains and which receive high levels of rainfall and mild climate, creating perfect growing conditions. Generations of selecting seeds from the best plants and improving the growing conditions means that the plant is perfectly adapted to this region, from its native South America.

What makes the occasional Padrón pepper hot?

About 10% of your plate of peppers will be spicy but apparently this percentage will increase the longer the peppers stay on the bush.

Did you know…

The first Sunday in August is the Fiesta del Pimiento in Herbón, Galicia. Meanwhile the feast of Santiago (St James, the patron saint of Spain) is celebrated in Padrón with a pepper cook-off. For real enthusiasts, intriguingly it appears there is also an Association of Knights of the Pepper (Asosiacion de Cabaleiros do Pemento). If you know anything more about this, do post us your comments below as we would love to hear!

Where to buy them

Padrón peppers are available to buy from our Borough Market shop, we receive fresh stock every Tuesday. Your local deli or supermarket may well stock them.

How to cook them

You can enjoy them on the menus at our London Bridge, Soho and South Ken tapas restaurants. To cook them like our chefs do, simply heat some olive oil in a pan and fry, stirring for about 5 minutes until just turning brown. Sprinkle with sea-salt as you cook.

If you cook them yourself, why not try them alongside our tinned sardines from the Rías Baixas, followed by a plate of Tetilla, Galicia’s most famous cows’ milk cheese. At our restaurants, order them with Pulpo Gallego, a Galician dish of octopus with potatoes, rock salt, sweet Pimentón and olive oil.

The subject of this blog was requested on Twitter: if you have a Spanish food subject you would like to read about, post your comments below.

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  • Serving suggestion

    When you cook Padrón peppers always add the salt when they are on the plate, still hot, the same that happens with octopus. Never while they are in the pan. The salt should be rock, Maldon style. Enjoy and good luck!. Uns pican e outros non!

    Maruxa, 9 Nov 2011

  • Padrón peppers

    Grazas, obrigado Maruxa. It looks like they are also a fun food to enjoy on a date, as these two do at Dehesa!

    Claire Roff, 9 Nov 2011

  • Padron Peppers

    Padron peppers are the biggest hoax pulled on the public by the Spanish. In many years and numerous servings of padron peppers I have never had a hot one ...ever. The one occasion i did have a hot ones, on closer inspection the peppers seemed different in size and shape to padron and I am fairly certain they were in fact jalapenos, which are similar in appearance to padron peppers. Hot padron peppers are non existent.

    Ben, 9 Nov 2011

  • ¿Unos pican?

    Hmm thanks for the post Ben, interesting! Perhaps if staying longer on the bush makes the peppers hotter, it would make sense for them to be the bigger peppers? Perhaps this is the trick to spot them! Looking at the D.O.P. website, it says, (I am roughly and quickly translating only, so please check the website itself for the original information in Spanish: that not all the peppers are piquant, this is something that appears occasionally....and it is a light heat, as the producers go to a lot of trouble to select the product avoiding plants and fruit with the most intense spicy flavour. The way they have managed to achieve this, from a plant that was originally piquant, is perhaps the greatest proof of their know-how. I don´t know if this means they avoid seeds or plants which are likely to be hotter, or if they avoid picking hotter peppers once grown? Anyone else never had a hot one?

    Claire Roff, 10 Nov 2011

  • Padron Peppers

    Hi there! I have seen "pemento de Padron" out there in shops that came from Alicante!! so I would not be surprise if you don’t have any hot one... the conditions in which they were cultivated were not the "padron" ones, if that makes sense. I have indeed come across many hot ones. Mind you, the English tolerance to spicy food is far higher than the Spanish so what you might find mild, we might find it too hot

    Fran, 11 Nov 2011

  • Padron Peppers

    Hi there! I have seen "pemento de Padron" out there in shops that came from Alicante!! so I would not be surprise if you don’t have any hot one... the conditions in which they were cultivated were not the "padron" ones, if that makes sense. I have indeed come across many hot ones. Mind you, the English tolerance to spicy food is far higher than the Spanish so what you might find mild, we might find it too hot

    Fran, 11 Nov 2011

  • Hola

    where can i buy in London peppers padron please?

    Carmen, 29 Jun 2012

  • Pimientos de Padrón

    You’ve been unlucky, Ben. There are two sources I know of here that import from Padrón, and it is indeed rare to find a hot one. In part that is due to the fact that the Spaniards have to a large extent bred the capsaicin out. But you can get them freshly-grown here from July to October/November (same growing season as in Padrón) from the South Devon Chilli Farm, and I can attest to the fact that you can get some real stingers from them - up to 40% if you’re lucky.

    John Annis, 28 Aug 2012

  • Padron Peppers

    I agree entirely with Ben. I’ve eaten Padron peppers loads of times in Spain and Majorca and never once had a pepper that is noticeably hotter than any others. TV chefs go on about it all the time, presumably because they think it makes them sound "in the know" on a foodie secret, but it’s a myth and they just perpetuate it.

    John, 19 May 2016

  • Padron peppers from Galicia, in season now, are spicy indeed

    I disagree with John and Ben and agree with Fran - I have actually had some lately, a month ago, which are currently in season from Galicia, and quite a couple in the box I bought were spicy. Not only I thought they were spicy, but we shared them with friends from UK and France and they also thought they were hot - some of my friends were not even able to eat them, honestly! I think it depends on the origin of the vegetable, as the only ones which are truly spicy are the ones from Galicia. When the weather starts to get cold in Galicia, around the end of September, production shifts to the South of Spain. The ones I got I bought online from Brindisa and I was more than happy with them - we demystified the myth as it is rare to find Padron peppers which are "truly" Padron from A Coruña! People, keep on the search for your hot one!

    Carmen, 9 Sep 2016

  • It’s true!

    I’ve eaten padrons for years and I too thought it was a myth, I’m currently on holiday in Cadiz and we bought a packet other padrons which state the origin AA Galicia. I cooked as normal and ended up with one that was part orangey green, it blew my head off. I enjoy jalapenos, scotch bonnets and birdseye chillies, this padron was unbelievably hot. I had tears streaming, my boyfriend got a few hotter than usual ones but nothing like this beast! The old adage is true, there are indeed some very hot padrons, I wonder if it’s linked to this time of year?

    Louise, 20 Sep 2016

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