The Dirt: What To Get At The Farmers Market This Weekend

It’s hot out. Baking in the sunshine, chasing the shady side of the street, slugging a frosty beverage, looking the same when you got out of the shower as when you went in hot. And you know what? That’s okay, because it’s August and it’s supposed to be hot around here. In the spirit of this time of year, this week we’re taking a closer look at the heat that you’ll find at area farmer’s markets: chili peppers. It’s easy to just go for the jalapeños or the poblanos out of habit, and that’s fine if you want to do your shopping at an ordinary grocery store, but area growers have for you a huge array of spice that you’re never gonna find at the Acme. Here are a few you’ll find at area markets.

Aji Crystal– A little bigger and wider than a serrano, these Chilean chilies have thin flesh and a color than ranges from celery green to orangey red. Less punishing than a serrano, they have a citrusy heat that can sneak up on you. The burn doesn’t linger, though, which makes them an excellent choice if you like spicy salsa.

Jimmy Nardello – These curly red-brown peppers look as though they could be lethal hot, but they’re actually not at all. Sweet and juicy, these Italian frying peppers do very well on the grill, on top of pizza, or slow cooked with onions.

Cayennes – Long, red, and juicy, you could easily mistake a cayenne for a milder Anaheim, and that could be a mistake. Like the jar of them dried and ground in your spice cabinet, cayennes are hot, but not nearly as concentrated in flavor when you find them fresh. Avoid the seeds and they add a juicy crunch, and pleasant pop of red color to slaw or salad.

Fish – Like the logo for Chili’s painted in stripes, fish peppers are a regional specialty, often cooked in seafood dishes, worth seeking out for their range of colors and their striped flesh. Green striped with yellow, red with orange. They’re cheerful to look at and they have a pleasant spice.

Cherry Bombs – They look a little like the pickled peppadew peppers in the olive bar at the supermarket, but cherry bombs are are fleshier and juicier with thick skin that makes them perfect for pickling. Plus? Once pickled they make an excellent accompaniment to any sandwich.

Aji Limo – Ben Wenk of Three Springs Fruit Farm got the seeds for these Peruvian peppers from a friend who traveled there. Spicier than a serrano, they have a shape in between the menacing lantern of a habanero and the length of a jalapeño and you’ll find them in a range of colors. Try them minced into cevice for pleasant pops of heat.

Scorpion – These Trinidadian chilies are caustic hot, and have even been named by some the spiciest in the world. This explains why you’ll find them and other super hot chilies like them at farmer’s markets in plastic clamshell containers to prevent casual browsers or children from inadvertently brushing up against them. Also called moruga chilies, these are only for the hot sauce makers, the true believers, or the truly reckless.