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Ethiopian Brown Chile Peppers
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Ethiopian Brown chile peppers have an elongated shape, measuring an average of 10 to 15 centimeters, and taper to a point. The peppers mature from green to a dark, chocolate brown and may have the occasional red hue. They have medium-thick, firm skin that is wrinkled and may display defined ridges. Ethiopian Brown chile peppers are juicy, and have a rich, smoky flavor with a tangy fruitiness. They have a moderate heat that builds slowly, hitting the back of the throat first, then slowly spreading to the rest of the mouth. Ethiopian Brown chile peppers measure anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville Heat Units.
Ethiopian Brown chile peppers are available in the late summer and fall months.
Ethiopian Brown chile peppers are a rare variety of Capsicum annuum. It is known as the Berbere pepper or Ethiopian Berbere (pronounced “bear-beret”), named for the dried spice it is customarily used to make. Ethiopian Brown chile peppers are not common outside of northeastern Africa, and are more likely found dried or ground.
Ethiopian Brown chile peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C and provide over twice the recommended daily intake. They are also a good source of vitamins B6 and A, as well as iron, copper and potassium. The peppers also contain the alkaloid compound capsaicin, which is responsible for the spiciness, and offer pain-relieving, anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic and anti-diabetic properties.
Ethiopian Brown chile peppers can be used fresh or in cooked applications. They are most often dried and used whole, or ground into a powder to include in the spice blend berbere. Berbere is an essential ingredient in traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean dishes, like doro wot (a stew), and gives the cuisine its distinctive flavor. It is made with dried and ground Ethiopian Brown chile peppers and fenugreek, along with other spices such as salt and pepper, allspice, cardamom, and ginger. The spice offers a spicy, earthy flavor and can be dry or made into a paste. Use fresh Ethiopian Brown chile peppers in stir frys, soups or stews, or for sauces. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Berbere is a spice blend that has been used in Ethiopian cuisine for over hundreds of years. Every region uses a different berbere mix and each family has their own blend, which was likely passed down from generation to generation. The spice is used for meats, chicken, soups, stews, and lentil dishes. The sauces and pastes are usually consumed alongside injera, a spongy flatbread.
Ethiopian Brown chile peppers are native to Ethiopia and Eritrea, which sits along the Red Sea on the east coast of Africa. Chile peppers were first brought to northeastern Africa by the Portuguese sometime during the 16th and 17th centuries. Ethiopia is one of the largest chile producers in the world, producing more dried chiles than fresh. Ethiopian Brown chile peppers are not commonly found outside of Ethiopia, though seeds are available for home use through online sellers all over the world. They are most likely spotted at farmer’s markets or in specialty stores.