Monday, October 27, 2014

Red Ruffled Pimiento

This little known culinary treasure deserves some limelight. It is high time for cooks and foodists to try it and see just how delicious a ripe red pepper can be!

Believed to be derived from a Spanish paprika pimiento. this squat, lobed fruit is far and away the most flavorful, aromatic, and rich sweet pepper ever. We were giving out samples at Hoes Down Festival this fall at Full Belly Farm in the Capay Valley, and everyone was in agreement: best tasting pepper they'd ever tried!

We've loved this variety for over twenty years. Steve worked professionally with organic seed growers around the country. He has kept up many of those connections, who have become good friends. One of them was John Finley of the Garberville Community Farm. 

John and his wife Lisa have been growing produce and saving seed for many years. They received the Red Ruffled Pimiento seed from grower Bill Reynolds, grew it out and made some improvement selections on it.

One of the improvements made was to the size of the fruits. They run 3-4" in diameter, and about 2" high. The walls are over 1/4" thick; much thicker than the familiar Bell Pepper.

The seed then went back to Bill's farm, Eel River Produce. We visited this past March. The photo above shows a cover crop waiting to be plowed in on this beautiful certified organic land. 

In March Bill was transplanting Red Ruffled seedlings.

By the time Steve returned, in late September, each plant held from 6-15 fully ripe peppers, and a number of ripening ones. You can easily ripen twenty fruits per plant with an extended growing season.

I love how Bill made use of his resources: he took advantage of a weed problem, datura, to provide shade for the pimientos. Peppers are by nature understory plants, and the taller Jimson Weed prevented sun scald on the peppers.

September 30th was harvest day, Steve single-handedly picked 300 gallons of ripe fruit. How many pecks of perfect pimientos can Steve Peters pick? You do the math. Pretty good for an old timer! Just part of the personal service from Seed rEvolution Now!

One of Bill's thrills is finding ways to use the bamboo that thrives on his farm. Here's a handmade seed drying screen, which was pressed into service as a pepper ripening rack. Very aesthetic!

To process the seeds, Bill ran the fruit through a Millet Wet Seed Separator. This first chops the fruit, and then passes it over a shaking tray through which water is sprayed, pushing the seed through the screen and into the sluice box. The seed-free flesh is saved for food.

Bill in his waterproof pants rubs the seed through the screen by hand.

The seed and fine pulp go down the homemade redwood sluice. 

Check dams catch all but the heavier, viable seeds.

These are caught in a mesh screen at the bottom.

Nice small-scale, low-cost operation for the on-farm seed saver!

After the seed dries, it will go through a final winnowing to blow away the flecks of dried flesh. Then it's ready to go off to farmers and seed companies. Steve is representing Bill and several other trusted organic seed producers through Seed rEvolution Now. The price is $125 per quarter pound, although he is willing to sell smaller lots as well. You can email him at, or call him at 505-660-3933.

Here's some shots of the fruit soon after it came to our home in San Mateo. I just can't say enough about the fantastic fresh eating quality of these peppers! But I'll try...

Thick, meaty, sweet, juicy, aromatic, rich and delicious!

And they make wonderful stuffers! Unlike Bell and Relleno type peppers, these have a tender skin and do not require peeling. Toothsome stuffed pimientos!

One last point in favor of these beauties: Here's a photo I just took today, October 27th, of a Red Ruffled Pimiento kept nearly a month without refrigeration! Pretty amazing, considering it was picked fully ripe! So hurry and get some of this seed to offer in your catalog or grow for your customers. Try it in your kitchen, give your kids a slice. It is just too good to pass up!

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