Jimmy Nardello Heirloom Pepper of the Week

Jimmy Nardello Heirloom Pepper of the Week

April 16, 2023 0 By dzordani

The 150 year old Jimmy Nardello heirloom pepper is a variety every gardener should familiarize themselves with. Right now! This fantastic everything heirloom pepper makes its way to the United States, as counteless things do, via the old world. Southern Italy to be exact. Although the Jimmy Nardello pepper’s history isn’t necessarily as important as the pepper itself, I’ll give it to you anyways…

Mature Jimmy Nardello plant with peppers
Jimmy Nardello plant in August, grown in 5 gallon bucket. Look at the size of that thing!

History of the Jimmy Nardello pepper

The seeds were originally smuggled into the country in 1887 by Angella Nardello, an Italian immigrant mother of 11, who settled in Connecticut. Angella, like most immigrants, kept a garden where she grew, an as of yet unnamed pepper, amongst other produce to help feed her massive family. This is where Jimmy comes in.

Jimmy, Angella’s fourth child, developed an affinity for gardening and subsequently cultivated the seeds for a lifetime. Additionally, Jimmy thankfully introduced his family’s 100 year secret to the world via Seed Savers before his death in the 1980s. Regardless, for some reason it still took years for this exquisite variety to gain any popularity or recognition inside gardening communities. Despite that, these days I believe you would be hard pressed finding any avid gardener who doesn’t know and grow this pepper. My oh my, have things changed. For me, personally, this is an every year plant in my garden. I’m talking every… single… year. So yeah, okay, maybe the Jimmy Nardello’s history was important after all.

That being said, Jimmy Nardello is a must have pepper for any gardening or food enthusiast thanks to its off the chart versatility in the kitchen. To list a few:

  • Delicious enough be eaten straight off the plant.
  • Beyond perfect for grilling or frying.
  • Amazing chopped and added into any salad or salsa recipe.
  • Add to your soups and tomato sauces for an extra flavor kick.
  • Cut into sections for your vegetable trays.

The uses inside the kitchen for the Jimmy Nardello might be endless.

Let’s move on to the important stuff, and by important I mean, what to expect when growing the Jimmy Nardello pepper.

Ripe Jimmy Nardello Peppers
Beautifully ripe Jimmy Nardellos

1. Flavor

Where to begin… well, for starters, It’s fruity, extremely sweet, creamy and delicious with a wonderful crisp, snap. Simply the perfect sweet pepper. Every now and then, you may encounter one with a pinch of heat, but don’t count on it. Jimmy Nardellos are best eaten red after the flavor has fully developed but can be enjoyed green as well. Though not as delicious. If you’d like to change the flavor notes, try pan frying in olive oil or grilling for an amazing charred flavor. You will not ever find a better tasting sweet pepper. Ev-er.

2. Size and shape

Nardellos grow 5″ to about 7″ in length and are about as thick as a quarter. They have a beautiful accordion shape at the top and extend in every which way down the length of the pepper. Some grow straighter than others. In regards to the plant itself, expect up to 3 feet of growth if given enough space.

Look at those beautiful Jimmy Nardellos

3. Color

Ripen to a brilliant fire engine red with maybe a streak or small section of green. Keep them on the plant longer and they further ripen to a beautiful deep purple. If you choose to save the seeds for next year this the color to wait for.

4. Production

Mid season pepper takes 80+ days to ripen, but well worth the wait. See #1 above. In the backyard garden you should expect anywhere from 2-3 dozen peppers off of any one plant. That’s not bad considering the size of these peppers. Fertilize regularly with fish emulsion to keep the plant happy and production on the higher side.

I’ll address tips and growing practices to successfully grow peppers in a later post and as always, read my post on when to plant your peppers in the Denver area to always help ensure success.

With everything this pepper has going for it it’s no mystery that is was kept a family secret for 100 years. All I can say is thanks, Jimmy.