Every once in awhile my friend Kelly Orange at Specialty Produce does the Twitter equivalent of whispering something enticing into my ear. "@carondg, we've got French heirloom potatoes," she'll tweet (knowing these are my favorites). Well, last week it was, "We've got peppers." No sooner had I seen this irresistible note then I raced over there to see what was available from the Santa Monica farmers market trip made that day by the other Kellie--Kellie Palermo.
Okay, local, right? And I asked them about that. These peppers were from farms in Northern California and, well, this is San Diego Foodstuff and I do write a column for San Diego Magazine called Local Bounty and here I am surrounded by peppers grown hundreds of miles away.
But, according to the Kelly/ies, it turns out that not many peppers are grown locally. Yes, I've seen them--primarily poblanos, shishitos, and padrons--at Suzie's Farm and Chino Farms, but they don't sell to Specialty Produce and that's about it, they say. (And, yes, I welcome any corrections/enlightenment someone wants to offer.) Okay, I'm also growing my own. I have jalapeños, chocolate, and spicy Thai chiles in my garden right now. But these... You have to take a look before I chop them up, pickle them, grill them, or whatever else I decide to do.
So, here are Sweet Bananas peppers. These can be pickled or stir fried.
These Guernicas are huge--five or six inches long--by contrast to what they're typically compared to: Padrons. Yes, like Padrons you can toss them in oil and salt (and maybe add some lemon zest a la Searsucker) and then grill them to eat as a snack. They're also perfect stuffed with cheese.
Piment d'Anglet are a curious-looking Basque sweet frying pepper. Long with a curl and they want to hang together like those plastic toy monkeys of childhood. These are great raw in a salad, fried or sauteed. Or, again, like the Padron, toss with oil and salt and grill.
The vibrant red Lipsticks are so visually compelling. Slice them up and saute with onions and garlic, stuff them with chopped crabmeat, stir fry or roast them with eggplant, or chop them and add to a salad.
White jalapeños are just that, so they are going to go into a salsa this weekend. They're also delicious grilled.
Hungarian sweet peppers are a little controversial. There are also peppers this color that are much smaller and rounder and also called Hungarian sweet peppers. These look like pale yellow bells. Fry these up with onions and sausages or chop into large pieces and pickle them.
You can pick any of these peppers--and even more varieties--at Specialty Produce. And, I'd love to get some inspiration from you about how you use them.