TREND ALERT: Shishito Peppers are Hot! (Well, at least one in ten peppers is said to be…)
What you need to know about these unique peppers!
By: Tracy K. Lee
Product Development: Home Garden, Indoor Leaf, Niche Crops
Shishito peppers are popping up on menus and retail shelves all over America. Their fast track to popularity has left some confused as to what these peppers are, where they came from and why they’re so hip in the foodie world. Here’s what you need to know:
Shishitos originally gained popularity in Japan where they were coined ‘shishito’ in reference to the tip of the chili pepper (tōgtarashi’) which looks like the head of a lion (shishi’), so the Japanese abbreviated the name to shishitō.
These small, slender, finger-long peppers are thin-walled and glossy with a unique ‘textured’ look. Fruit can grow up to 3-4″ long and turn from green to red as they ripen, but it is most popular to harvest and prepare the fruit while it’s still green. The Shishito pepper plant has a spreading habit and produces prolifically, making it adaptable for garden, greenhouse and/or open-field growing. According to ‘pepper lore,’ it is said that that the occasional fruit will display heat. Rumor has it, about one out of every ten peppers is spicy. Plant stress such as hot or dry weather may cause the peppers to turn spicy.
A new shishito variety, ‘Takara’, was recently introduced by Sakata Home Grown to growers in the US and Canada. Takara (meaning ‘Treasure’ in Japanese) is especially prolific and has mild/rich flavor and sparkling, shiny green fruit. The plants are compact and fruit is best harvested a 3-3.5 inches and green. Takara matures quickly, in about 60 days from transplant.
Roasted, grilled, pickled, sliced or fried—these peppers are a great addition to soups, salads, tacos or grilled and served as an appetizer or snack!
Easy Preparation Tips:
- Poke a hole in the pepper before cooking to keep expanding hot air from bursting the pepper.
- Shishitos may be skewered and grilled or pan-fried in oil or soy sauce.
- The thin walls blister and char easily when roasted or grilled, taking on rich flavor — just add a sprinkle of salt and enjoy!