They are very mild and sweet, and have charred remnants of skin on them.
They are grown around Lodosa in the Ebro River (“Ribera del Ebro”) Valley in Navarre, northern Spain. The eight villages in the production area are Andosilla, Ázagra, Cárcar, Lerín, Lodosa, Mendavia, San Adrián and Sartaguda.
The pepper plants are grown from seed. The peppers are about 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) long and about 1 inch (2 ½ cm) wide, narrowing to a slightly curved point at the end.
They ripen from green to red. Most are picked red, and these are the best known kind of Piquillo Peppers. But some are harvested green, or partly green and red. The green ones are less sweet.
The peppers are harvested daily in September and November, as they ripen. They are roasted in wood-fired ovens, which gives them a slightly smokey taste. Then they are peeled (not washed first) and seeded. During this process, they shrink by about 60%. They are then packed in jars or tins in their own juices, along with salt and citric acid. Each jar or tin has to be numbered, and bear the official logo of the PDO that was granted to the producers (see below.)
Scoville Units: 500 – 1000
Piquillo Peppers can be stuffed, roasted again, used for purées, salsas, strips in salads or pieces on canapés, relish trays, antipasto plates, etc.
About 20 calories per processed pepper.
The Piquillo Pepper plant is, obviously, a New World plant despite marketing claims that it’s “native” to the area. But it appears to have become a unique variety that was bred in the area, and it’s now recognized as a cultivar.
The peppers weren’t really commercialized until the 1960s. Up till then, the area was largely just a summer holidaying area. But as more and more visitors took a few bottles of Piquillo Peppers home, knowledge of the peppers spread by word of mouth.
Piquillo Peppers received European PDO (Protected Denomination of Origin) status in 1987. The standards for the PDO are administered by the “Onsejo Regulador D.O. Piquillo De Lodosa” in Pamplona.
“Piquillo” means “little beak”, referring to the curved tip. “Lodosa” means “muddy” in Spanish.