Throw Back Thursdays

History Of Jimmy Nardello Italian Peppers

By Darcy Larum | May 25, 2017
Image by Frans Rombout

History Of Jimmy Nardello Italian Peppers

by Darcy Larum May 25, 2017

History Of Jimmy Nardello Italian Peppers

By Darcy Larum | May 25, 2017

The U.S. is known as the melting pot. For centuries immigrants from all over the world have come and made the United States their home. With them they’ve brought their religious beliefs, cultural traditions, and favorite recipes and food. The story of the Jimmy Nardello pepper began with Italian immigrants, Giuseppe and Angella Nardello, sticking a few favorite pepper seeds in their pocket before coming to the United States.

History of Jimmy Nardello Italian Peppers

In 1887, the Nardello family immigrated to Connecticut seeking a better life than they had in their remote, mountainous village in southern Italy. Along with them, they brought the seeds of some of their favorite vegetables including Capiscum annum, the variety of sweet pepper that is now known as the Jimmy Nardello Italian pepper.

Life in Connecticut was good for the Nardello family and soon they had 11 children. Naturally, raising 11 children doesn’t leave time for much else. Fortunately, the Nardello’s fourth child, Jimmy, had inherited his mother’s love of gardening, so he built terrace gardens and grew many of his mother’s favorite heirloom pepper plants.

From just the few seeds his mother had brought over from Italy, Jimmy kept the family well fed with wholesome, hearty vegetables for decades. Jimmy’s favorite of all the peppers he grew was a sweet Italian frying pepper. Before he passed away in 1983, Jimmy donated seeds of his favorite pepper to the Seed Savers Exchange. Since then, it has been known as the Jimmy Nardello pepper.

Growing and Using Heirloom Pepper Plants

Nearly 130 years after Jimmy’s mother brought her heirloom pepper plant seeds to the U.S., Jimmy Nardello Italian peppers have become all the rage with chefs and gardeners. Traditionally, these peppers were strung from a string and dried. The string was run through the stem of the pepper, with a needle. Dried peppers were then sliced or chopped and sautéed or fried for use in traditional Italian recipes. Today, Jimmy Nardello peppers are dried, frozen, pickled, canned or used fresh in any recipe that calls for a sweet, crisp pepper.

Jimmy Nardello pepper plants require 80-90 days to mature. In northern climates with shorter summers, you may need to start the seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost date.

Plants need full sun and grow approximately 2 feet tall and wide. The fruit is 6-10 inches long and bright red at maturity. Jimmy Nardello peppers contain vitamin A, vitamin C and are low in calories.

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    Comment added July 20, 2019Reply

    Tricia, thanks so much for sharing even more history of your family. I love hearing the stories that come along with these seeds. The first time I heard of these peppers was on YouTube by Zack and Jen Stiver of Stivers Homestead. They're actually growing them in their garden. Next season I will be, too. Have an awesome day!

    Tricia Schulz
    Comment added June 6, 2019Reply

    Hello. I’m Jimmy Nardello’s granddaughter. I live in Honolulu Hawai’i. I read your article about my family immigrating to the United States. I thought you might find it interesting to know, my great Grandmother hid the seeds to a lot of the family vegetables, coming from the old country, sewn in the hem of her skirt!! . These peppers being one of them. Otherwise, they may have been taken from her upon entering the country. My Grandfather owned two lots back in Connecticut. One had his home on it and the other was his magnificent garden. He grew everything you could imagine with great success. He studied different ancient ways and ended up planting his garden by the cycles of the moon. It was all very fascinating to us kids. He has one surviving daughter, left living in Connecticut, who knows many old family stories. He is survived by dozens of grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. We are all very proud his name will live on for generations to come.
    Thank you
    Tricia Schulz

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