Give me a plate full of Spanish grown peppers and I am happy. Put a plate of Pimientos de Padrón in front of me and I have gone to Spanish food heaven. I worship at the alter of these little green peppers. Full of flavour, Pimientos de Padrón hail from Galicia.
The cultivation of these peppers provide hundreds of Galicians with an income in the village of Herbón and town of Padrón, to the south of the capital Santiago de Compostela. The peppers, around 2-3 inches long, are considered a sweet delicacy. I enjoy them as a tapas, on their own. They are fried in olive oil and sprinkled with salt. A favourite dish for many is one that sees the peppers accompany steak. A serving of steak and Pimientos de Padrón is much more enjoyable than steak and chips.
There is an art to eating them. Grab the pepper by the stalk and eat the pepper whole, in one swift movement. I like it when I get a mouthful of spicy pimientos de padrón. By far the majority of Pimientos de Padrón are mild. But, once in a while, and usually when you are least expecting it; POW! - you bite into one that threatens to blow your head off. Lovely! I have seen groups of people in bars buy plates and plates of peppers in order to play a culinary version of Russian roulette with Pimientos de Padrón. Who will get the hot one?
It is believed they arrived on the Spanish mainland from the Spanish colonies of South America. They've been grown in Galicia since the 16th century and were cultivated by the monks at a Franciscan Convent. For the past thirty years or more the Galicians have celebrated the diminutive pepper with an annual festival, each August, in Padrón. The pepper season is from May until September and locals say the spicier pimientos arrive towards the end of the growing season. They are harvested when the seeds are soft and the skin tender.
There are unproven claims that they have aphrodisiac qualities. But what is beyond doubt is that Pimientos de Padrón are nutritious. They contain vitamins A, B1, B2, C, P, proteins, calcium, iron and almost no calories. They also have medicinal properties and are good for digestion. They are also proven to lower cholesterol levels and reduce high blood pressure.
So next time I speedily pick my way through a plate of these little green perfect peppers, I can tell myself that I am not only enjoying one of the best foods on offer in Spain; I am also improving my health. Sounds good. Tastes good. And, by golly, they do you good!
And the good news is that you can now buy Pimientos de Padrón in the UK from The Tapas Lunch Company!