Pimento cheese, pimento, pickle loaf, olives stuffed with pimento – you may be familiar with all of these uses for pimento pepper.
But if that’s all you know about this small, mildly spicy, sweet, heart-shaped pepper, let’s expand your horizons and introduce you to this versatile little pepper that is perfect for making dips, using in recipes, roasting, and even eating right off the bush.
Read on to learn more about what the pimento pepper tastes like, how to use it, and even how to grow your own.
Want to grow Pimento Pepper yourself? Check availability.
Characteristics of the Pimento Pepper
A mature pimento (or “pimiento”) pepper is about 2-3” wide and 3-4” long. They are similar to bell pepper in that they are not a spicy pepper. In fact, on the Scoville heat index, their heat range is 100-500 SHU, compared to a habanero pepper at 100,000-350,000 SHU.
Pimento peppers are heart-shaped and red when fully mature.
How Do They Taste?
These peppers have a mild, sweet taste. They are similar in taste to a bell pepper you grow in your garden, not the watered-down version you find in a grocery store, with just a little heat.
How to Eat Them
Pimento peppers can be eaten raw right off the bush. But, to kick their flavor up a notch, try throwing them on your smoker. Simply cut the tops off, cut them in half, seed them, and smoke them until they’re soft.
If you have a recipe, like this classic Spanish Paella, that calls for jarred pimentos from the store, substitute strips of your pimentos fresh from the garden.
Try substituting pimento peppers next time you make your favorite stuffed pepper recipe. Instead of scooping out the pimento, like you would a bell pepper, just cut them in half, fill them, and bake.
In fact, the next time you have any recipe calling for bell peppers, use pimento peppers instead for just a little bit of heat.
Even as small as they are, pimento peppers pack a healthy punch. They are high in vitamins A, C, K, and E. They’re also a good potassium, manganese, copper, and iron source.
All of this means they are good for your digestive health and blood pressure. However, if you suffer from heartburn, enjoy them sparingly. Pimentos are still a member of the pepper family.
How to Grow Pimento Peppers at Home
Chances are, you’re going to have a hard time finding fresh pimento peppers at your local grocery store. A local farmer’s market or produce stand may have them. But the best way to enjoy these peppers is to grow them at home, either in the garden or in a container.
If you plan to grow pimentos in your garden, for best results start them indoors 6-10 weeks before the last frost. If you’re unfamiliar with the process of starting seeds indoors, we have a complete guide to seed starting, with instructions and tips.
When it comes time to transplant your seedlings, you can place them in a container for your porch or in the garden.
Because they only grow to about 24” tall, pimento peppers are perfect for container gardens. Choose a pot that is at least 12” in diameter, with good drainage. Only plant one seedling per pot, so they’re not overcrowded.
If you’re transplanting your seedlings into the garden or raised beds, we have a pepper guide to help ensure you have a bountiful harvest.
Pests and Disease
Blossom End Rot
Pimento peppers are part of the nightshade family and are susceptible to blossom end rot. Blossom end rot will start out looking like a dark stain at the blossom end of your pimento. If left unchecked, that dark stain will grow into a large spot that will ruin your pepper.
A lack of calcium causes blossom end rot, usually brought on by inconsistent watering. Be sure to water your plants evenly and consistently.
For additional help preventing blossom end rot, add Pelletized gypsum soil conditioner to the base of your seedling before planting and then again when you see the first bloom set.
Cutworms, aphids, and hornworms
Pests…ugh! They’re the worst. But, there are a few steps you can take to help prevent/deter them from your garden.
Try planting a beneficial insect wildflower mix. Not only will this help attract good bugs to take care of the bad ones for you, it’ll also add gorgeous wildflowers to your garden that you can use for cut flower arrangements later.
Another option is the all-natural Garden Pest Success Kit from Hoss. This complete kit has everything you need, including a sprayer and measuring cup.
Sometimes even your best efforts will not keep hornworms away. Those buggers are persistent. If you’re enjoying your garden one morning and notice them feasting on your leaves, pluck them off and drop them in a bucket.
Your chickens will love disposing of them for you. You’ll also be adding protein, calcium, and water to their diet. Win…win.
Harvesting and Preserving
You’ve planted your pimento peppers, fertilized them, consistently watered them, taken care of all the unwanted weeds and critters, waited patiently for 65 days for them to mature, and now they’re bright red and ready for harvest. Yay!
The best way to harvest your peppers is to cut them from the stem with sharp garden snips rather than pulling them. Pulling can damage your plant.
Once you’ve eaten all the pimento peppers you can and given away to family and friends all they’ll take, it’s time to preserve your harvest to enjoy next winter. Michigan State University has a great article on methods you can use to preserve peppers.
Where to Buy Pimento Peppers
In order to enjoy the sweet, spicy, meaty pimento pepper fresh out of your garden, you’ll need to purchase seeds. Hoss Tools sells premium pimento pepper seeds that are an All-American Selection (AAS) winner.
Wrapping up Pimento Peppers
Are you ready to get your hands dirty and add pimento peppers to your garden? While you’re waiting on your seeds to arrive, check out our guide to pepper plants for information on other varieties to grow alongside your pimentos.