Thursday, April 17, 2008

Who is Jimmy Nardello?

Last summer, in the midst of our tomato-blight/potato-wireworm tragedy, we had a success story - our peppers. Even though the summer never got warm & sunny enough to fully ripen them all, the anchos and pimentos we planted grew and produced like gangbusters. There were so many peppers on most plants, we had to stake up branches to prevent them breaking off. Once the nights got frosty, we picked them all and pickled a peck or two. We've been enjoying them all winter. And that inspired us to improve on our efforts by searching out another pepper variety to try this year. I kept coming across mention of this guy, Jimmy Nardello, and his amazing sweet Italian frying peppers. They even got voted onto Slow Food's Ark of Taste! Who is this guy, and what the heck is a frying pepper? Here's what I learned..."In southern Italy, at what one might call the “instep of the boot,” is a mountainous region called Basilicata. In the subregion of Potenza, with its small coastline on the Thyrrhenian Sea, sits the tiny town of Ruoti.
For several years there, Giuseppe Nardiello and his wife, Angela, nurtured a favorite variety of sweet frying pepper. When they set sail from the port of Naples in 1887 for a new life beside the Golden Door, Angela carried her one-year-old daughter Anna and a handful of the pepper seeds with them. They settled in Naugatuck, Connecticut, where they raised the peppers, and eleven children. The fourth one was a son named Jimmy.
Jimmy’s son James, who is now 81 and still residing in Naugatuck, told me that the teachers in Jimmy’s grade school dropped the “i” from Nardiello, apparently believing that theirs was the proper spelling. It stuck to Jimmy, and to all the subsequent siblings and descendents.
James also said that his father was the only one of the Nardello children to inherit Angela’s love of the garden, and that Jimmy lovingly cared for his own throughout his life. He built them the way his mother taught him, in terraces, the way all gardens were built in the mountains of southern Italy. There he grew hundreds of peppers, but the sweet frying pepper was his favorite, and he would string up his bounty and hang them to dry in the shed, so his family could enjoy them all winter long.
Jimmy passed away in 1983. But before he did, he donated some of the heirloom pepper seeds to Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) in Decorah, Iowa. SSE specializes in protecting heirloom seeds, with more than 11,000 varieties protected in two separate climate-controlled vaults. They grow out roughly ten percent of the stock on a ten-year rotating basis, refreshing and expanding the supply each time. One of these seeds is the one that has become known as Jimmy Nardello’s Sweet Italian Frying Pepper.
One hundred and twenty years after the Nardellos set sail, bringing a small piece of their homeland with them, the pepper that bears the family name is becoming a favorite among chefs and home gardeners nationwide, but it is still registered as “endangered” on Slow Food USA’s Ark of Tastes. The Ark is an effort to find, catalog, and protect the world’s endangered flavors from the onslaught of the standardization of agriculture and cuisine."
"The Nardellos are turn from their youthful kelly green to a mature fire-engine red, indicating that they are ready to be picked, sliced, fried in olive oil with garlic, and slathered over steaks alongside a generous pour of Primitivo.
They are also delicious as a sweet edge in your favorite chili or salsa recipe, and they are the best sweet pepper for drying. To dry them, string them on thread with a needle, careful to pierce them through the stem and not the fruit. Hang them near a sunny window or on the porch, and they’ll add decoration as they dry.
The best ones resemble a pig’s ear. James says that’s how his dad picked them. They grow in full sun in neutral to acidic soil, and are quite prolific as long as they are not over-watered."
(The above information comes from The Iowa Source.)

It's not too late to join us in our old-world journey of pepper-discovery by planting some of Jimmy Nardello's peppers yourselves. Or look for starts at your local (and I mean local) nursery or farmer's market. We'll let you know how ours do, oh say, around September...


On the milking front, Stella has a new stall tie set-up. It's a vertical bar mounted to a corner post, with a short length of chain attached via a ring that allows the chain to slide up & down. She's gotten into a habit of fidgeting back & forth which means I have to move the milk bucket around a lot and lose time milking. This way she can reach her hay, look around, nuzzle her baby, but can't mess around too much. She doesn't seem to mind it and is still giving 3 to 4 quarts of milk after 4 to 5 hours separation from Doug.


C. Virelli said...

Is this the same Giuseppi and Angela Nardello that had a daughter named Maria Giavanna ,and married Frank Santore in Philadelphia in 1891????

C. Virelli said...

actually, that is Maria Giovanna Nardello and her Mothers name was Angela Sabia Nardello, from Ruoti Italy

nardello said...

No, they are not the same. However, the Naugatuck, CT Nardello families and the Philadelphia, PA Nardello families are indeed related and both originate from the village of Ruoti in Italy.
Are you related to the Nardellos?

C.Sabia-Smith said...

I must be related to all these Nardiellos and Sabias because my grandmother, Maria Nardiello (Nardello) married Antonio Sabia. Both came from Ruoti and both settled in Naugatuck, CT in 1900.

C.Sabia-Smith said...

We also string and dry these so-called Nardello peppers and use them every Christmas Eve, served with fried smelts and baccala. This is one of our traditions. They're delicious; they taste like a peppery pop-corn. Of course, they're fried, after they've been dried.

Seven Trees said...

Do they soften up again as they're fried? Sounds tasty!

Ours are way behind due to the cold spring, but we're getting some hot weather now, so maybe they'll catch up before frost.

nardello said...

To c. sabia-smith:
Is your grandmother the Maria Giovanna Nardiello (born 17 August 1871 in Ruoti) - whose father was Domenico Nardiello and mother was Maria Giuseppa Mancino – and who on 11 July 1897 in Ruoti married Vito Antonio Sabia (age 29) – father Angelo Sabia and mother Angela Vaccaro?
She is my second cousin, 3 times removed – which would make you my fourth cousin, once removed.

C.Sabia-Smith said...

Yes, she is. Where do you live?

As far as the peppers go, they don't soften up but they puff up and as soon as they're fried (very quickly) they should be placed on a paper towel. They are very crisp and have a peppery popcorn taste. They can burn very quickly,also, so a keen eye and quick hand are needed.

nardello said...

I'm originally from the Philadelphia area - but now live in Oregon.

C.Sabia-Smith said...

Wow, how did you know all the stuff about my grans-parents. And thanks to you, I realized that today was my grandmother's b-day.

How is she your 2nd cousin?
I think this is amazing!!

nardello said...

Your Grandmother and I are both descendents of Giambattista Nardiello (21 SEP 1779 – 4 MAY 1861) & Beatrice Pizzichillo (17 DEC 1780 – 2 JUN 1851). They were my 4xgreat-grandparents and her great-grandparents.
I collect all of the family history information that I can find on all of the Nardiello families of Ruoti – more on those that ended up in Philadelphia than those that settled in Naugatuck at this point (but still growing). We go back to the 1600s in Ruoti.
The Sabia family is another old Ruoti family. They immigrated to Ruoti from the neighboring village of Avigliano about 1650. There are three branches of the Sabia family in Ruoti: the Lumoccaro, the Marzaccaro, and the Stozza. Do you know to which branch you belong? Have you ever visited Ruoti?
Your Grandmother, by the way, belonged to the branch of the Ruoti Nardiello families known as the Tarosca – so her complete name would have been Maria Giovanna Nardiello Tarosca.

C.Sabia-Smith said...

This information is terrific. I have a cousin and his wife in Tucson that have been doing a lot of genealogy on the Sabia side. Maybe he would know what branch my Sabias are from. I'll contact him and let you know.
How did you happen upon the Sabia family name, since the Nardiellos are what you're concentrating on?
It seems you must have visited Ruoti and you probably speak Italian. I haven't been to Italy nor do I speak Italian. I can get a few words here and there, but that's it. Even if I were to take a course, I doubt very much if I would be understood in Ruoti, Their dialect sounds like mangled Italian.

C.Sabia-Smith said...

To: Nardello

Where did the Nardiellos split up..meaning what is the closest relation of the ones in Philly to the ones in Naugatuck? As far as I know, my grandmother had a brother, Tony, who settled in Brooklyn, and also two sisters. I think her sisters lived in Bridgeport, CT, but I'm not sure. I'm not sure of their first names, because I get my grandfather's sisters and my grandmother's sisters mixed up. Everyone was gone before I was born, except an Aunt Filomena and Carmela. They may have been Nardellos.

nardello said...

To: C.Sabia-Smith
I think we're getting way off the original idea behind this "Jimmy Nardello" Blog - into stuff probably not of interest to the other followers of the Blog.
My personal email is:
Why don't you email me directly to continue this, while I look into your question about the Naugatuck - Philly split?

nardello said...

To: C.Virelli
I met Charley Santore about 8 years ago at the old Santore/Nardello house at 707 S. 7th in Philadelphia and had a nice talk with him about his mother Maria Giovanna Nardello (who you mentioned in your post).
May I ask if you're related to either the Nardello or Santore Families of Philadelphia?
Please reply to me directly at:

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Phiddy said...

I was given some of the Jimmy Nardello seeds from a gentleman grower in Lexington, Kentucky. They are doing quite well up here in Jasper, Ontario. I can hardly wait to pick one to eat and experience the taste. Sadly they are all still green.


George said...

I grew these peppers this year. Even in a highly shaded yard they grow well, produce well and have a great flavor.
Everybody should try these. Chances are you'll keep putting them in.

Scott Geyer said...

Does anyone know of a photograph of Jimmy Nardello? All I can find online are pictures of the peppers. . .

Thanks Scott Geyer