Peppers are Hot With Customers and Market Farmers

Shishito peppers are a hit in casual eating and fine dining restaurants, and we can’t keep them in stock at the Farmer’s Market!

Little Lions

What are Shishitos?  A thin-walled, sweet pepper that originates in Japan. ‘Shishi’ means lion since the pepper resembles the small head of a lion combined withtogarishi’ which translates into chili pepper.

Shoppers may be unfamiliar with these peppers, but once they take some home and cook them, I guarantee they will be back for more. Copy the recipes in this article and hand them out to shoppers so they can see how easy they are to prepare.

If you taste them raw, you will be unimpressed; compared to how delicious they become when cooked. The taste is sweet with a complex flavor- slight citrus, fresh and bright, with a  smoky hint.

Wrinkled peppers, which are slender and thin-walled, they mature at one or two inches. Green or red- you can pick them either way, though I prefer them red when they are sweeter and higher in Vitamin C. At the Farmer’s Market, we sell them in pint baskets, either mixed in colors or all-green.

I have read that one in ten peppers may be as hot as a mild jalapeno. Although that may be true, I never bit into a hot one, and I eat a lot of them raw in salads or as a snack.

Chefs Love Them

Shishitos are becoming popular as tapas or appetizers. One of my favorite restaurants here in Austin, Texas; Barley Swine, stuffs them with a fig/cheese mixture, and they are amazing.

These are a versatile pepper, and we sell them to a variety of restaurants- from Spanish Tapas to fine American dining. They are a high dollar crop, and several chefs buy fifty pounds or more each week. However, if your customers are not familiar with them yet, offer free samples to encourage them to add Shishitos to their menu.

The Most Prolific Pepper on Our Farm

We order seeds from Kitasawa Seeds or Johnny’s Selected Seeds and start them in the greenhouse two months before planting them in the field two weeks after our average last frost date.

Shishitos are easy to grow but don’t like soggy soil. They handle the heat better than any other pepper and keep bearing all summer. Leaf-footed bugs are the only insects that bother them on our farm, biting small holes in the peppers.

Since it is one of the most prolific peppers, I recommend staking the plant, so it will not break when loaded with fruit. In fact, the abundance of peppers may overwhelm you- the harvesting is the most time-consuming aspect of this crop. We pick them either with a snap of the hand or, easier for me, with small clippers to ensure that you get enough stem. One person can harvest about ten pounds per hour.

Cooking and Eating the Tasty Little Peppers

Wash the peppers and dry them. Poke a small hole in each one with a sharp knife to let the steam escape while cooking and to avoid exploding peppers!

Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a heavy saute pan to almost smoking and add a single layer of peppers. Turn them every few seconds until lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and place on serving plate, sprinkle with sea salt and watch them disappear.

Cook some extras, and you can add them cold to salads.

In Japan,  diners often dip them in soy sauce. My favorite, a dash of sriracha sauce swirled into a good quality mayonnaise.

You can also grill them or serve with more complicated sauces.

Try growing Shishito Peppers this year and watch them add dollars to your farm sales.

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