Shishito peppers

Summer’s best new bite

By
September 1, 2009

Shishito peppers are about three inches long and bright green, like a green bell pepper. Pleats and folds run along the length of their bodies; the tip is neither pointed nor blunt, but folds up into itself.

These peppers don’t resemble jalapeños or serranos either in looks or in taste. They’re mild, not hot, though sometimes one will have a little bite. Still, they aren’t quite like bell peppers, either, so know that if you don’t like green bell peppers, it doesn’t mean you won’t like shishitos. You probably will.

This is the fourth year we’ve had these Japanese peppers in the Santa Fe farmers’ market. One farmer saw a need for them, and now several more are offering them. If they’re not available elsewhere, they should be, and my guess is they probably will be. You can’t go wrong with these wrinkled little morsels.

You can’t go wrong with shishitos.

Sautéed shishitos are absolutely delicious to nibble on with drinks, but people are thrilled to buy them for another reason: They’re insanely easy to prepare. The $10 per pound cost probably works out in terms of time saved — for some, anyway. (I see it as expensive!) But knowing their charms and not yet having succeeded at growing my own, I’m willing to pay. It probably comes to less than putting out decent cheese and is a much more interesting alternative.

Here’s what you do with them: Heat a little olive oil in a wide sauté pan until it’s good and hot but not, of course, smoking. Add the peppers and cook them over high heat, tossing and turning them frequently, until they blister. It takes about 10 minutes or possibly longer for a pan full of peppers. When they’re done, add some sea salt and toss again. Some like a squeeze of fresh lemon, too.

Slide them into a bowl and serve them hot. Pick them up by the stem end and eat the whole thing — minus the stem, that is.

You can probably do fancier, cheffy things with them, but they’re terrific like this. If you have leftovers — an unlikely event, in my experience — chop off the stems and put them in an omelet or some scrambled eggs. And if you’re a gardener with ambition, you can get seeds from Kitazawa Seed Company and grow your own.

Deborah Madison is the author of numerous award-winning cookbooks, including Local Flavors. She lives in New Mexico.

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1. by Patrick Barber on Sep 2, 2009 at 12:44 PM PDT

These sound (and look) almost exactly like Pimientos de Padrón, and are prepared in a similar manner. I love the PdP’s all summer long.

2. by Linda Ziedrich on Sep 2, 2009 at 2:21 PM PDT

I’ve grown these peppers for six or seven years, and I can tell you that they are indeed almost exactly like pimientos de padron, from which they probably developed. According to Hiroko Shimbo, the Japanese fry and salt shishitos just as the Spanish do pimientos de padron (although I doubt that the Japanese typically use olive oil). I poke shishitos with a fork and then deep-fry them very briefly, less than a minute.
Shishitos are very easy to grow from seed. They are always among the first of my peppers to sprout, and the plants are quite productive.

3. by Patrick Barber on Sep 2, 2009 at 3:24 PM PDT

Thanks, Linda, that is great to know. I have wanted to try growing the Padrón peppers but couldn’t find seeds; I’ll try shishitos instead.

4. by Penny Thomas on Sep 2, 2009 at 5:08 PM PDT

Patrick and Linda: I had Patron peppers in Spain and thought they were wonderful. Finally found seeds here in the states but had to pick the peppers when they were very small or they are too hot for my taste. I will try the shishito to see if they are better.

Penny Thomas

5. by keydiary on Sep 3, 2009 at 2:31 AM PDT

Plant the pepper 6 or 7 year, and I can tell you they to seem Spain sweet pepper de padron nearly really, among them perhaps they develop.

6. by JudithK on Sep 3, 2009 at 2:57 AM PDT

They are also very similar to the Italian ‘frigarelle’ pepper which you cook in the same manner. A recent discovery is to slice them in half, fill half the pepper with a soft, meltable cheese and broil them until the cheese is bubbly, a spritz of olive and a sprinkle of salt and they are irresistible.

7. by Deborah Madison on Sep 3, 2009 at 2:23 PM PDT

I’m glad to hear that they’re easy to grow from seed. I grew some from starts this year and, after having to move them, they are finally producing. Very thrilling to find these little green peppers amongst the leaves, and exactly the same color, too. The cheese filled treatment sounds really good —especially for when they get a little larger—kind of miniature chile relleno.

8. by PBest on Sep 10, 2009 at 2:02 PM PDT

These are GREAT! I had them for the first time a week ago, bought them from the Growers Market along with the Spanish Padrons, they go well together. I’d like to try and grow them, still researching how that works..

9. by Deborah Madison on Sep 14, 2009 at 1:26 PM PDT

My four plants are finally bearing peppers! They are look even better
hanging off the branches. Like little green beans, they seem to disappear so you have to feel for them. I confess I started with starts, not seeds, but
next year I’m trying the seeds.

10. by Helen Simmins-McMillin on Jul 21, 2011 at 11:45 AM PDT

I’ve become so hooked on these (from a late night place in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles). That I’ve been seeking them out and making them on my own. They’re usually prepared with some Ponzu Soy sauce, it’s so easy and quite a wonderful treat.

I just ordered some seeds online, and am excited to plant them!

11. by Deborah Madison on Jul 22, 2011 at 8:20 AM PDT

Good for you! Plant a bunch - 10 or so as the plants are small. They produce
steadily but if you like to have them by the pound, you’ll need more than one or two. The Ponzu sauce idea sounds good, too. Have fun with these little guys!

12. by anonymous on Jan 18, 2012 at 10:30 AM PST

can i get these peppers anytime of year and if so anyone aware if they are available in any farmers markets in the NY/NJ area? im a big fan of the frigarelle from & am wondering how close in flavor/texture the Shishito is to the frigarelle. Thanks

13. by Deborah Madison on Jan 18, 2012 at 11:56 AM PST

As far as I know shishito peppers are still a seasona/local food, available in the summer only. I’m afraid I don’t know the frigarelle - would like to know more about that. I suspect someone in the NY area is selling them at a farmers market. If you have a garden space at all, you could plant them. Seeds are available from Kitazawa Seed Company.

14. by JudithK on Jan 20, 2012 at 3:34 PM PST

Ciao Deborah! I live in NYC and in Italy so I see both peppers. I buy shishito peppers at the Japanese grocery store by me in Soho, and we plant the frigarelle in our orto in Italy. Slight difference but basically the same thing: delicious!
And now that I think about, when I was in culinary school in Italy, one of the Japanese students was trying to tell me about the peppers. When your only common language is bad Italian, lots of things are subject to interpretation! Didn’t matter, we fried and ate a lot of them, quite happilyl

15. by Deborah Madison on Jan 22, 2012 at 9:23 AM PST

Judith - good story and good to have a NYC source. So frigarelle is more or less the same as a shishito? Interesting. I guess food really is the common language when your mutual attempts at Italian fail!

16. by Jerry on Apr 28, 2012 at 11:17 PM PDT

Hi Deborah, I’m trying to grow the shishitos from seeds, and now they are about 4-5”. But they stop growing. I gave them some bone meal, blood meal, and some blended fish solution and still they don’t look healthy. I’m in Los Angeles. Any tips? TIA - Jerry.

17. by Deborah Madison on May 1, 2012 at 9:15 AM PDT

Jerry - I don’t know what to say. I assume you mean the plants are only 4 or 5 inches high, not the peppers. Are they getting sun and warmth? That might help a chile. I’m afraid I’m not enough of a gardener to be able to answer you question - I’m so sorry!

18. by eric on Jun 29, 2012 at 8:31 PM PDT

jerry,it is still soon for peppers,they love the heat. when it warms up they will take off. also when using organic fertilizers ,which is good,the fertilizers need warmth also so the bacteria will break down the nutrients.

19. by Deborah Madison on Jul 2, 2012 at 8:52 AM PDT

Jerry, now that it’s July 2 and it’s been HOT for the past month, my pepper transplants have settled in and taken off! I think Eric was right about that - it seems that prolonged heat was what they needed, more than fertilizer.
thank you Eric!

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Local Flavors

Deborah Madison, the celebrated cookbook author and local-food advocate, feeds us with her occasional reflections. Her latest book is Vegetable Literacy.

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