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Blistered Shishito Peppers

When I learn about a new, trendy ingredient, either online or in the food media, it often takes awhile to arrive here in North Carolina. Shishito peppers have been popular for a few years, originating in Japanese restaurants, then migrating into the mainstream. But only in the past year have I seen them in some local grocery stores.

This spring, at my local big box garden center, I spied shishito pepper plants. I was smitten, so I bought two plants as an experiment. They got off to a slow start, but have outperformed all my other peppers, and are still dutifully bearing fruit–in October. To ensure I will have them again I saved some seeds for next Spring’s garden.

Shishito peppers are a member of the Capsicum annum species. They are mildly spicy, with a fruity and peppery flavor. They have very thin walls and are totally edible. Reportedly, about 1 in 20 shishitos can be a spicy surprise, but I have yet to encounter this.

Peppers are measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), based on how much capsaicin they contain, which translates to their heat and pungency. The scale begins at 0 SHU’s with bell peppers, shishitos come in between 50-200 SHU’s, jalapenos 2500-10,000 SHU’s, habaneros 100,000-350,000 SHU’s, and the scale climbs to over 2,000,000 SHU’s. Currently the hottest peppers in the world are the Carolina reaper, Komodo dragon, and dragon’s breath, all around 2.2-million SHU’s. In the world of peppers, it is a continual quest for even hotter varieties. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy a little heat, on the low end of the scale. I’m just not into burning my lips off.

More than flavor bombs, shishito peppers per serving are nutritional powerhouses full of Vitamins C, K, A, and B6. Which is a good thing, because like potato chips it is hard to eat just one. Shishitos are a great appetizer or snack that is virtually guilt free.

Don’t worry if you’re late to this pepper party too, as the shishito peppers are here to stay. A few tasty ideas to get you started: add them to scrambled eggs, stuff and bake them with your favorite cheese, blister them in a hot pan or on the grill.

I look forward to hearing about your shishito adventures, and if you get a hot and sassy one, let me know.

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