Here's a popular Spanish saying about Padrón peppers: Unos Pican Otros No -- or, "Some are hot, some are not". This likely comes from the fact that less than 10% of Padrón peppers are spicy hot, and the person who is "lucky" enough to get a hot one is usually taken by surprise by the heat.
A Spicy History of the Padrón Pepper
Padrón peppers are small green peppers 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) long and traditionally grown in Padrón, Galicia (northwest Spain), which is also the origin of their name.
They are bright green to yellow-green in color, with an intense flavor. They are in season from May through September, and it seems that the peppers ripened later in the harvest are more likely to be hot. The Spanish enjoy eating Padrón peppers as a tapa, simply fried in olive oil and sprinkled with salt.
The region of Galicia is well known for its lush green landscape, mild temperatures, and high rainfall. The area's fertile soil and cool weather are the ideal growing conditions for the Padrón peppers.
The Padrón peppers were brought back to Spain from South America, where legend has it they were grown for their aphrodisiac properties. In the 16th century, Spanish monks began growing the peppers inside the walls of their monastery in the village of Herbón and became very popular locally.
The Popularity of the Padrón
These tiny peppers have become so popular that they have their own festival.
The Padrón Pepper Festival has been celebrated in the villages of Herbón and Padrón for over 30 years. It starts in the early morning with a traditional tractor parade. The procession travels about one mile from the village of Herbón to Padrón with an enthusiastic crowd of both locals and visitors.
Participants in the festival get to taste the latest crop of peppers served with cornbread, which is also typical of the region. As with any Spanish festival, musicians provide entertainment throughout the afternoon and into the evening hours.
Padrón peppers are available in most supermarkets or produce markets around Spain. They are also available in the UK and US from various suppliers. On the west coast of the US, Happy Quail Farms produce and sell Padrón and other specialty peppers at farmers markets. Their website is a great source of information and photographs of a wide variety of peppers.