Jimmy Nardello is a name I’ve been hearing a lot lately. More people than ever seem to be searching for seeds or live plants while others are sharing photos and rave reviews of their Jimmy Nardello growing experience.
Admittedly, whether it be for my affinity towards growing hotter peppers, or it was simply lost in the swirling sea of pepper seed varieties out there waiting to be grown; I’d never heard of this “Jimmy Nardello” fellow – or his pepper for that matter.
But like seeds in soil, it just kept coming up. To the point that I really started to wonder, who is Jimmy Nardello? And what exactly is a Jimmy Nardello pepper?
Eventually, I gave into my capsicum curiosity and turned to the web for a quick search. That "quick search" turned into an hour-long rabbit hole of captivating pepper research and information. I had to make myself stop. But ever since, these four main takeaways have stuck:
Luckily, Pepper Joe has heirloom Jimmy Nardello seeds in-stock just waiting to be grown. Now I only have to figure out where Jimmy Nardello plants are going to fit amongst all the other varieties I’ve chosen to grow this year… But that’s a problem for another day.
Right now, I’ll share more on why the Jimmy Nardello Pepper was enticing enough to earn a spot in my seed trays.
Here’s an overview that I found helpful when thinking about growing Jimmy Nardello plants.
The unusual story behind this sweet pepper is what really peaked my interest.
In 1887, Angella Nardello, an Italian immigrant mother of 11, brought seeds from southern Italy to her new home in Naugatuck, Connecticut. In order to feed the large family on a budget, the sweet red peppers were grown in their garden alongside other practical produce.
Later, the fourth child, Jimmy, developed an interest in gardening and continued to cultivate his mother’s peppers until his passing in the 1980s. Luckily, just before his death Jimmy was kind enough to donate some of his mom’s heirloom seeds to Seed Savers.
This gave Jimmy Nardello peppers their name, but they still weren't being widely grown – likely because the average gardener had never heard of this unique pepper or its amazing flavor. The Italian Heirloom was in trouble.
In 2005, Slow Food USA stepped in and added the Jimmy Nardello Pepper to its exclusive “Ark of Taste”, a protected collection of highly-prized foods that may be facing extinction. This list includes everything from animal breeds, fruits, spices, grains, and of course, vegetable and pepper seeds. Datil pepper is another variety to recently make the list.
So, when you raise items listed on the Ark of Taste, you not only get to experience tasty foods – you get the satisfaction of helping endangered species thrive once again. Talk about a win-win situation!
The fact that Jimmy Nardello peppers earned a spot in the Ark of Taste is a good indication of their taste and long-term value. But what exactly do they taste like?
This thin-walled pepper is said to have a sweet, candy-like flavor that makes it very versatile in the kitchen. When eaten fresh, Jimmy Nardello peppers have a mild, sweet, and fruity flavor with little to no heat. When dried, the flavor is still somewhat sweet, but also becomes savory and slightly smoky.
Whether it’s impatience or end of season frost scares, some choose to harvest green Jimmy Nardello peppers, but waiting until they turn red provides the best flavor and nutrition.
Speaking of nutrition, Jimmy Nardello peppers are packed with Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and potassium. With each harvest, you'll get a super tasty and surprisingly healthy snack.
Jimmy Nardello peppers are excellent for roasting, grilling, and frying. Many people simply fry them in a pan of olive oil and add salt to taste. Then you can eat them by the handful or add them to salads and sandwiches. Pizza, pasta, and meat dishes also sound like promising options.
Surely, there are many sweet pepper recipes that one could substitute in Jimmy Nardello peppers. Based on the way people rave about their flavor, they may actually elevate some of those classic pepper dishes that could stand a shake-up.
Lately I've been experimenting with hot sauce and salsa recipes and can appreciate the milder peppers when it comes to balancing heat and adding new unique flavors to the mix. This is exactly why Pepper Joe’s Carolina Reaper Hot Sauce contains Piquillo and Peri Peri peppers, in addition to those vicious mouth-melting Reapers. So, for the sake of experimentation – a homemade Smoked Jimmy Ghost salsa may be on the horizon!
I’ll be sure to add any new “worthy” Jimmy Nardello recipes to the Pepper Joe's recipes section as I experiment.
Until next time - Happy Gardening
Have you ever grown Jimmy Nardello peppers? What’s your take on them? Let me know in the comments below.