Pementos de Padrón, uns pican, outros non… This Galician refrain translates roughly as ‘Peppers from Padrón, some are hot, while others are not’, thus initiating the unwary diner in a time-honoured Galician food experience – a sort of hot pepper roulette. The farmers that grow them have yet to come up with a convincing theory on why they’re so volatile, usually fobbing us off with blarney about weather conditions and ‘ambiental factors’. For something so central to the Galician summer experience, they’ve only been around since the early 17th century, when Franciscan missionaries brought them from the Americas to their Friary in Herbón, not far from Santiago de Compostela. By the end of the 18th century the trade in dried and ground pepper had become an important source of revenue for folk in the area. With the passage of time, the plant began to adapt itself to the mild climate and rich soil in the Ulla and Sar river valleys, producing pementos or peppers smaller than those that first came from the Americas, but stronger in flavour and not quite as fiery (what must those early peppers have been like!?). According to local government figures, there are about 14 hectares of greenhouse production and about another 20 hectares of open-air cultivation, giving a total annual production of about 1.3 million kilos. Each bag of peppers bears the official ‘Denominación de Origen Protegida’ label that guarantees they are the real deal and not some dodgy equivalent grown elsewhere in Spain, or, horror of horrors, in France or North Africa. So remember,’Pementos de Padrón, uns pican, outros non’, you’ll soon be wearing the t-shirt.
TRADITIONAL COOKING METHOD
Wash and thoroughly dry peppers, removing all the stalks (important). Deep fry in extra-virgin olive oil, adding the peppers while the oil isn’t too hot. Fry to taste, some people like them semi-raw, others well fried and quite blackened. Sprinkle with a good pinch of coarse sea salt. You can either eat them as an aperitivo or have them as an accompaniment to grilled meat or fish.
Info in Spanish and Gallego: http://www.apementeira.com/es/es_index.htm