Pimientos de Padron fiesta in Herbon
This year, 2014, is the first time that I have actually been to the proper pimientos de Padron fiesta in Herbon. (In the regional language, festa do pememto.) It takes place on the first Saturday of August each year and celebrates the nationally famous small green pepper that is fried in oil, sprinkled with sea salt and eaten in large quantities all over Spain.
The first point to make about this festival is that it is easily missed. We only saw one banner in Padron and that gave no indication as to where the event was taking place. Asking a local cafe owner provided the answer namely that it was a couple of kilometres away in Herbon.
We decided to walk and saw little activity until we heard noise coming from a field above us. By following the noise and a rambling path to our right we got to the center of things.
The Herbon Fiesta
The photos on this page probably give you the best indication of what to expect, but to sum up, this is a genuine fiesta, it is not based on making money or attracting masses of tourists, but on marking the cultural and economic importance of the pepper.
The fiesta itself had a series of floats, children's activities, a stage with performers and lots of food, but the pimiento is the star.
This is how things work There are a series of eating areas, tables and food preparation areas.
The first thing that you do is head for a table that is piled up with brown earthen ware plates. These plates look like keep-sakes with emboss lettering and a logo of the Padron pimiento, but there is more to them than that.
You buy a plate (2.5 Euros each) and then take the plate to a large serving table where people are quite literally frying pimientos de Padron in large cauldrons behind. You give them the plate and they cover it with the peppers and a couple of large chunks of bread an amazing deal. But it gets better, you can go back for as many refills as you want. For our part, the initial quantity was so great that we could not have managed a second helping and I think that was the same for everyone. You also get to keep the plate as a momento.
In addition to the pimientos, there are undercover eating areas where you can order (and pay for) BBQ meat, pulpo and other foods. There were cakes and a bar and, in keeping with everything else, the prices were much lower than you would expect to pay in town.
All told I thought that this was probably the best fiesta that I have been to in Galicia. It was a real event, it was not commercialised or updated and it had a genuine purpose. I am also an addict to pimientos de Padron, so perhaps I am slightly biased, but if you are in Galicia in early August this really is a must visit fiesta.
The real pimientos de Padron are only grown in the Padron area (and specifically Herbon), but you can buy the seeds and grow them in any warm temperate climate (the UK is ideal and I grew them with great success in 2013). You pick them when they are small, i.e. anything from one inch to about three inches maximum and fry them until the skin starts to sear.
If you are in other hotter parts of Spain they often grow them locally, but they grow too quickly and have a lack of taste compared with those from Padron.
The way to eat them is to sprinkle them with coarse salt and to bite the pepper of the stalk. They are not hot, although the odd one may have a bit of heat. The season generally starts around the end of April and runs to October. Any sold outside this time envelope are imported and not the real thing.