I had probably the last online delivery that us under 70 will get from a supermarket quite rightly a couple of weeks ago. As I’d been self isolating for two weeks I was incredibly lucky to get it. Part of the order was a packet of pardon peppers which I an my family adore. We first tried padron peppers over twenty years ago in a small restaurant on a keyside in Mallorca. It took another ten years for them to come to UK supermarkets and it is only in the last few years that they became mainstream. So what is so exciting about these peppers that I can remember them so well and want everyone to try eating them or growing them themselves if they cannot find them.
Called the Russian roulette peppers, most are relatively mild, especially when picked young but occasionally one will be (especially if older and grown in less than ideal conditions) so hot that running a cheese grater over your tongue might be less painful and there is no way to tell until you pop it in your mouth.
They have an intensity of flavour with a bitter kick that have been bred out of most water pumped hothouse varieties and their thin skin makes them perfect for quickly stir frying. For any non European friends they are very similar to the shishito but with a little more kick and a bit fleshier.
It took a while for padron to be available in the UK but you can now buy them from Waitrose, Ocado and Sainsbury’s. They are also extreme easy to grow yourself , both indoors and out and are one of the easiest peppers to grow in the UK.
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 Jan/Feb, 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
If growing these yourself then make sure you pick them small or they can get very hot. The best way of cooking them is stir fried with a little salt. I have also stuffed them with cream cheese, wrapped in pancheta and BBQ’s as well.
Yield and plant health
You should get roughly 20 chillies from each plant but if you pinch out early and make sure that you remove the padron when young you may get more. Plants are tall so may need a little support.
Widely available but also