Santa Fe’s Other Little Pepper

New Mexico is known for their chili peppers. If you visit in the fall you will see ristras, or arrangements of drying chili pepper pods, hanging everywhere. These colorful ristras were available at the Santa Fe Farmers Market when I visited a week ago. But, this year I also learned that Santa Fe has another little chili pepper that has made quite a hit there.

The peppers are called Shishito. They are about two to three inches long with a wrinkled thin skin, and a sweet-hot taste. The ones I tasted straight from my friend’s garden (seeds included) were not HOT but my friend said that every once in a while you’d get one with a little kick. They were very tasty.

Saturday morning we headed down to the Santa Fe Farmers Market and while tasting my way through the local delicacies, I happened upon some freshly roasted Shishito. WOW, they were fantastic. They were stir-fried in olive oil with garlic until charred, then sprinkled with a little sea salt. You eat everything but the stem.

I was a little shocked by the price though. They were selling for $8. per lb. After thinking about what we went through harvesting my friend’s two small plants I realized that maybe that wasn’t such a high price. Harvesting them is a kin to harvesting Sweet 100 tomatoes. The peppers are small and there are lots of them hiding amongst the plants leaves.

When I got home from New Mexico I decided to poke around on the internet to see if I could find some seed for these little beauties and guess what, there is a seed company in nearby Oakland, CA, Kitazawa Seed Company. I’m thinking these would be great addition to my “mini” veggie garden.

If you get a chance to try these either at a restaurant, I hear they are great in tempura, or at a farmers market, give them a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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FINALLY!

It has been weeks since I have posted and I have felt bad that I haven’t had the time to devote to blogging. Two months ago I started working again after being retired for three years and while I love my job as coordinator for a K-12 environmental education program, my free time isn’t what it was. I am adjusting and with time getting better at managing “my time” vs “theirs”.

This weekend was wonderful. Everything seemed to flow easily and all my chores were accomplished yesterday (Sautrday). I even had time to kick back and watch a movie. Today two of my sisters visited and we started off, of course,  at the Farmers’ Market. That was followed by some serious bargain hunting at an antique faire and then lunch and more shopping at Ikea. We were done, literally, by about 4 this afternoon where upon the girls left to head home. Both had a couple hours drive.  As I was sitting at the kitchen table I started thinking about my blog again and wondering if I could muster up the inspiration for a post. And, then it happened. I looked at the light that was coming in low through the windows shinning across the table. It was very nice; warm and soft. I grabbed my camera, the tripod and two interesting Ya Li pears and it all came together within minutes. Especially good since natural light moves quickly at this time of the year. Happy with the photography I headed to my office to do some research and some writing. And, this is what I came up with. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did putting it all together.

YA LI PEARS

While wandering through the market this morning I stopped to buy some pears. I love French Butter pears and have been buying them for several weeks now. But, today, at the urging of the grower, I tasted a Ya Li Asian pear and immediately changed my mind. It was crisp, juicy and sweet. The crispness was evidently a nice change for my palette. The silky French Butter pears would not be going home with me today. Into my basket went the Ya Li.

According to the grower, Ya Li pears are ripened after picking, which allows the starches to convert to sugars, making them very sweet and juicy. He said they have a slight yellow color to the skin when they are ripe and ready to eat.

The best way to enjoy a Ya Li is simply to just bite into it. Or, if you are determined “to do something with them” you could slice them into salads or use slices in hot or cold sandwiches. They are also good gently poached in light syrup flavored with nutmeg and cinnamon and served over a good vanilla bean ice cream. Actually, you can substitute them in any recipe that calls for pears.

The Ya Li is prized in China. These however were not grown in China and shipped across the ocean, then sold to a wholesaler who sold them to a vendor who took them to a Farmers’ Market.  They were grown down river near Courtland, CA, about a-half hour’s drive from my market.  So, they are not only fresh, they are local. My kind of fruit.

See if you can find these at your market. The information I found was that they are grown in Fresno, Tulare, Kern, Placer and Sacramento Counties of California, Yakima and Wenatchee, Washington, Hood River and Willamette Valley, Oregon. They are also grown in the eastern and southeastern United States although I couldn’t find specific information for those areas. If you’re from those areas and you know specifically where Asian pears are grown, please let me know.  If you try them,  let me know how you like them. If you have a favorite way to use or enjoy Asian pears, please share it.