Don’t Mess with Padrons – Diary of a Rocket Gardener

I’ve been growing padron peppers religiously since I first took on my veg patch seven years ago. My love for this variety grew when I lived in Spain, near San Sebastian, where I indulged in a dish of Pimientos de Padron pretty much every time I visited a bar. Interestingly, I never ever came across a hot one – they were all that deliciously mild flavour. The hottest I came across was a mild warmth, but never one that needed to be cooled down with the nearest iced drink.

Having grown them myself over the past years, my theory is that the Spanish chefs just knew when to harvest their peppers – before they got too large. Smaller is milder, at least that’s how it seems to play out with my own Padron Peppers. Any that I leave a little long on the plant seem to develop a heat that scorches my mouth for at least three minutes, by which time other people have scoffed the remaining peppers and I realise I’ve totally missed out.

So, that is my first piece of Padron Pepper advice – harvest them small. Much more than an inch long and they’re going to be hot, hot, hot. My second piece of advice is to keep the cooking simple. Honestly, my heart just sinks when people tamper with the classic way of cooking them. Don’t go reaching for the lemon juice, or serving them with a dip. Mixing them with garlic? And mushrooms? No, no, NO! Please no. Get your frying pan out, heat a tablespoon of olive oil, and cook the padrons whole until the skin blisters. Then, sprinkle with sea salt. Not table salt, not rock salt. It’s got to be sea salt. And then that’s it. Pure padron pepper brilliance.