Thursday, August 20, 2009
In Season NW: Jimmy Nardello? Nice to Meet You!
I first met Jimmy by chance about a year ago at the Hillsdale Farmers Market. He was hanging around with a bunch of friends near a large pile of brilliantly colored peppers at the Gathering Together booth. He was young, but there was a gnarliness about him that sent shivers down my spine, offset by a sweetness I could see in his eyes. Before I knew it, he sitting down for a candlelit dinner, just me and him and a bottle of red, red wine.
There are romance novels to be written about the flirting and flings that happen at farmers' markets, the glances, the double-takes, the outright lustfulness that overcomes shoppers at this time of year. Perhaps it's the ripeness, the abundance, the dizzying selection that makes people giddy, or maybe it's the knowledge that soon, so very soon, it will all disappear with the onset of winter.
And though I'm guilty of piling more produce than I'll ever use ("Beans again?") into my market bag, I also use this season as an opportunity to survey vegetables that I might want to include in my garden plan next year. Which is where Jimmy comes in.
Doing some research, I discovered that the seeds for these long, twisty sweet peppers came over from Italy with Giuseppe Nardiello and his wife, Angela, in 1887. Giuseppe's son Jimmy, whose teachers decided he didn't need the "i" in his last name, donated some of his father's pepper seeds to Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, which specializes in protecting heirloom seeds.
Fantastically flavorful, I found myself throwing them into pasta, roasting them (carefully…they're thin-skinned and disintegrate easily) for antipasto, chopping them into salads and even including them in tomato jam. So when the time came to buy seeds for the garden, I made a point of picking up a packet of the Nardellos.
The results of the first harvest from the garden are pictured above. And I'm thinking that this fling may have turned into a long-term affair.