The Best Italian Frying Peppers and Hungarian Picklers
I've been collecting Italian frying peppers since the 1970's when I began selling home grown seed out of jars at the Islip, NY Garden Show at Hidden Pond Park and receiving the treasured seed from gardeners in the local Italian Community. The Italian Long Sweet kinds (and there are also hot variations that look identical) are excellent fryers when green or red. They fry quickly since the flesh is fairly thin. More important they haveflavor components that just becomes outstanding when the alchemy of fire, olive oil and ample salt works it's wonder. Some may be a bit spicy with a tad of heat but mostly they are as mild as bell pepper but much more flavorful. The Hungarian type peppers are interesting because they are mostly yellowish in color when immature and have been developed primarily for the pickling industry. There are also paprika type peppers which are discussed elsewhere.
Italian Frying Peppers
Specific varieties of the European peppers primarily of Eastern Europe and Southern Europe are unfortunately disappearing as so many US varieties ceased to exist by the 1960's. Small farmers growing and maintaining regional varieties are being replaced by corporate farms which procure seeds from multinational seed producers and open pollinated traditional varieties are being replaced by hybrids and the standardization which is happening in the European Market. It's the same story in so much of the world!
The Virtual Pepper /www.virtualpepper.org/ has started to inventory the Italian Peppers which are most threatened bydisappearing. There are many seed saving organizationsyou can join such as /www.seedsavers.org/ to grow and maintain specific varieties for preservation.
These are always long, sometimes narrow kind of like the large wide hot Cayenne peppers or a bit wider like the Marconi types; there are refined straight kinds and those wonderful curved and curled kinds too. The plant habit can be rather dwarf with peppers hitting the ground as they grow or tall and bushy. They tend to be among the more prolific kinds that we grow so one can expect plenty of fruit for peppers and onions and pepper and egg omelets. They all start green and rapidly mature to bright red.
Hungarian Peppers (Great Pickling)
The Italian Peppers are productive but these peppers grown traditionally in Eastern Europe are the record holders for productivity in large sweet peppers. The Hungarian Peppers also include Polish, Greek and Romanian kinds. The Sweet Banana Pepper is a classic Hungarian Pepper. These all start out yellow or light greeninstead of green and dark green and change gradually to orange and then red. While they are sweet and mild sliced into a salad and you can fry them up if you want, their flavor lends themselves to be pickled. Some of the best pickled peppers have been from this group.
Peppers were considered to be inbreeders to a large extent but now it's been documented that insects work the flowers extensively and crossing easily occurs between open flowers of different plants within insect flight distance. Preserving the purity of a pepper variety usually means growing only one variety in your garden or caging the plants in order to prevent insect pollen transfer. To save viable pepper seed the fruit must be mature as possible which usually means that it turns from green to red. We open the fruit under water washing the seed out into the water and then pourthe seed onto a screen to dry at room temperature. The ripe pepper flesh is usually at it's sweetest and can be consumed fresh or is a good source of sliced or diced pepper to freeze or dehydrate for later use.