I haven’t been posting much recently due to travelling in the USA and Canada. It was a little hard to find food that wasn’t overly fried or sweet or covered with cream dressings, cheese or brioche buns. However there were a few highlights, a plate of large clams called “Steamers” in Mystic, lobster on Cape Cod and a dish called Gnudi (ricotta dumplings) in Stowe. That was so good I’m going to try and make it at the weekend.
In the USA growing increasing popular it is the Japanese cousin of the Padron tapas pepper, called the Shishito. In Japanese the name is Shishitōgarashi the word translates to chilli pepper that looks like the head of a lion…funny looking lion is all I will say. If you do want a chilli that really looks like like something then look up peter pepper.
Shishito are very similar to Padron in their use, I like them best cooked flash fried with salt. There are some small differences between Shishito and Padron. It is slightly paler in colour, crisper and more tapered. They arrive slightly later but keep going longer so are useful towards the end of the season. They are a little thinner fleshed which makes them good for tempura but unfortunately not quite so flavourful. Some might think that is a disadvantage but there is one very strong advantage. That is, if you pick Padron peppers a fraction too late, especially if the plants are slightly stressed, they turn in to a pepper that will rip the roof off your mouth, leaving you with the distinct feeling that someone has used a cheese grater on your tongue.
Shishito seeds can be difficult to find in the UK but you can buy a small number of seed packets from the USA through reputable suppliers. Padron also makes a good substitute, just pick them small!
Chillies and peppers need a heated propagator to get going, with a steady heat of 27-30 degrees for a minimum of two weeks, but occasionally up to twelve for super hots to germinate.
In February, make a mix of 2/3 seed compost to 1/3 perlite. Sow a few seeds in to a three inch pot and cover with 5 mm of either the seed mix or vermiculite. Label and place in the propagator. Water sparingly (misting the surface can be ideal) until germinated.
Once germinated and you can see the first set of true leaves, gently pot on in to three inch pots in a good free draining compost and keep in a sunny spot, with a minimum temperature of 12 degrees C. If you are able to grow under LED grow lights then your plants will be stockier and more robust. Blowing on them them gently everyday will also encourage that, stimulating wind.
Water sparingly until they are 3-6 inches high when you can pot on in to 9 inch pots or, if passed the risk of frost, plant in greenhouse soil or in a sunny, sheltered position outside. Feed and water once a week.
Chillies can take varying times to start flowering. Padron peppers are very early, habanero can take 100 days. If you are growing inside you will need to fertilise the flowers yourself with a small brush. If growing in a greenhouse or conservatory ventilate well on hot days as temperatures over 36 degrees can lead to flowers dropping off.
In the kitchen
Harvest Shishito when green and about the size of your thumb. Shishito peppers are thin skinned, mild chillies that can be eaten raw, flash fried with salt. stir fried, tempura’d or BBQ’s for a few seconds. You eat them whole, just discarding the stalk.
Yield and plant health
These are really healthy happy little plants that just keep going. You should expect to get over 30 per plant through the growing season. They will grow outside in the UK fairly well in a sunny, sheltered location. They are much easier to grow than sweet or bell peppers which need a much more mild climate than the UK can offer. Slugs and snails leave them well alone.
Plants can get quite high so may need staking. Whilst some peppers can be overwintered in the UK, Shishito are of the family Capsicum Annum so are best starting again from scratch each year.
Baker Creek (USA)
Grow again: I grow these every year alongside Padron.