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Friggitello Chile Peppers
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Friggitello peppers are elongated and slender pods, averaging 5 to 12 centimeters in length, and have a conical shape that tapers to a partially indented and rounded non-stem end. The waxy skin bears shallow folds and furrowing, ripening from green to red when mature. Underneath the thin skin, the flesh is crisp and pale green, encasing a central cavity filled with flat and round, cream-colored seeds. When picked green, Friggitello peppers are subtly sweet and offer a mild bitterness. As the pod matures into its scarlet red state, it develops an even sweeter flavor and a mild heat.
Friggitello peppers are available in the late summer through fall.
Friggitello peppers, botanically classified as Capsicum annuum, are an Italian heirloom variety that belongs to the Solanaceae or nightshade family. Also known as a Sweet Italian pepper, Tuscan pepper, Italian pepper, and Friarelli, Friggitello peppers are native to southern Italy and can be harvested both in its immature green state and mature red state. The young green pods are the most popular for culinary applications, and the sweet peppers are best known in Italy as a frying pepper, sautéed in oil with tomatoes, garlic, and basil and served as a side dish or as a topping for bruschetta.
Friggitello peppers are an excellent source of vitamins A, B, and C, and also contain many essential minerals like potassium, iron, and manganese.
Friggitello peppers are suited for both fresh and cooked applications such as baking, roasting, and sautéing, but in Italy, they are most well-known for frying. When fresh, the peppers can be sliced into green salads, mixed into egg dishes, topped over pizzas, or sliced into strips and consumed on appetizer plates. Friggitello peppers can also be diced and tossed into soups or stews, grilled on kebabs, cooked into compotes, roasted and layered into sandwiches, baked into casseroles, or stuffed with ground meat, rice, cheese, and herbs. In addition to cooked applications, the peppers can be pickled in white vinegar or dried for extended use. Friggitello peppers pair well with orzo, rice, cauliflower, herbs such as oregano, parsley, and basil, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, sausage, grilled meats, and balsamic vinegar. The fresh peppers will keep up to two weeks when stored whole and unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Friggitello peppers are often referred to as “the famous frying pepper of Naples” and are favored for their sweet, crisp flesh and mild heat. In Italy, the sweet peppers are fried with garlic and light seasonings in olive oil and are traditionally served at restaurants with basil, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese over crusty bread. Outside of Italy, Friggitello peppers also received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society of the United Kingdom in 2005. This distinction is given to varieties of plants that demonstrate superior growth traits for home gardening through rigorous trial and assessments. Some of the characteristics tested include color and production, availability, and resistance to disease and pests.
Friggitello peppers are native to the southeastern region of Italy between Naples and Rome and are descendants of peppers originally from Central and South America. Peppers were introduced to Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries through Spanish and Portuguese explorers returning from their voyages to the New World. Since their development, Friggitello peppers are very popular throughout Italy and Europe and can be found in home gardens and in local markets. The peppers are also available through online seed catalogs for home garden use and through specialty farms in the United States.