Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Doe Hill Peppers & Jimmy Nardello Sweet Italian Frying Peppers
Last week we brought in the last of our peppers - and by the last, I mean most of the harvest we got this year; about a bushel in all. We kept our peppers going so long by covering them with a hoop-house once the weather got cool. Since it's starting to dip down below 5°C at night, we decided it was time to bring them in. They had reached a stage where they were keeping, but not growing or ripening any more.
Two of the peppers that did very well for us were Doe Hill, the little round yellow one, and Jimmy Nardello, the long red one in the picture above.
Until a few years ago this pepper seemed practically unknown around here. It's an heirloom variety from the Doe Hill area of Virginia, grown there since before 1900. It looks like a small, squat yellow bell pepper, but it isn't. It's more in the family of tomato or apple peppers: small, thick-walled peppers named for their slightly flattened spherical shape. It tastes somewhat like a yellow bell pepper too, being sweet and mild yet with a rich strong flavour. That's when it's ripe. It can be eaten green, like a green bell pepper too. Everyone who tried this pepper this summer liked it very much. Me too! Since it isn't actually a bell pepper, I can eat it without getting the indigestion that bell peppers always give me. This is an exciting discovery for me!
Their one flaw, that I can see, is a tendency to go from golden perfection to a sack of mush overnight. Don't pick them until you need them, if you can help it, and watch them carefully if you can't.
The plants are quite compact, not getting much above 24" in height, and they produce a lot of peppers. They start early, about 60 to 65 days from planting out, and keep going all season, especially if you keep them picked. As all other peppers in this climate, they must be started indoors at the end of February or beginning of March, and planted out in late May once the soil warms up. They are said to be disease resistant. We had no disease problems this year, so I can't comment. I will definitely grow these again next year, and more of them!
Like Doe Hill, Jimmy Nardello peppers are an heirloom variety, although better documented. Seeds were brought to Connecticut by Angela Nardiello in 1887 from the town of Ruoti, east of Naples in Italy. There's a very good article about their history here. Her son, Jimmy Nardello, eventually passed seed on to Seed Saver's Exchange. Like Doe Hill, they've been becoming more and more popular as they get saved and passed around.
In looks they could hardly be more different. They are a long, skinny pepper, turning from a medium green to a strong red when ripe. Their walls are thin, allowing them to dry easily and cook quickly. They are less sweet and more "peppery" than the Doe Hills, but they are in no way hot. If you read the history above, and the comments, you'll see mention that they can be fried directly from the dry state.
They are said to ripen in 75 to 85 days from planting out, but in my experience these are a fair bit later than the Doe Hills. The odd one will ripen earlier, but the majority of the peppers on the plant - and there will be lots - will not ripen until just before frost. I suspect that I'm at about the northern limit of their tolerance. Height of the plants is a little taller than the Doe Hills; somewhere between 24" and 30". Both of these varieties could reasonably be grown in large pots. I have had some difficulty in getting the Jimmy Nardello to germinate, using seed from 2 different sources. I now plant about twice as many as I want, on the assumption that many won't come up. They will also be pretty slow. The Doe Hill seem much more reliable, although my experience with them is more limited.