Image: Courtesy Yasukochi Family Farms.

If there’s one food sure to take your tastebuds on a global culinary adventure without leaving home it’s peppers.

Southern California’s warm climate allows local farmers to grow a wide variety. Want to grow your own? Pepper plants grow well in beds and containers. Plant seedlings in well-draining soil where they’ll receive full sun. Since they have shallow roots, water consistently and keep the soil moist.

Rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and vitamin C, colorful peppers protect the immune system and have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. 

A pepper’s heat is measured using Scoville units ranging from 0 (for bell peppers) to over two million for Carolina reapers. To enjoy a pepper’s flavor while reducing some of its fire, remove the seeds and interior ribs when preparing it. When handling very hot peppers such as habaneros, protect your skin by wearing gloves and never touch your eyes.  

Want to go on a culinary adventure? Try these perfected peppers all over town.

Yasukochi Family Farms

You’ll find Farmer Donal’s bell peppers, Anaheim peppers, Jalapeños, and Shishitos at farmers' markets countywide, or through a CSA subscription with free delivery. Try mild shishitos blackened on the grill as an adventurous way to expand kids’ palates. Bell peppers and mini sweet peppers add color to any salad and Anaheim’s mild, peppery heat is perfect for adding to soups and sauces. 

Image source: Instagram @down2ferment.

Down to Ferment 

Known for spicy sauces with attitude, Ryan Minor and Sean Kirkpatrick create smooth, flavorful hot sauces using kombucha instead of vinegar. “Fermentation enhances peppers’ natural flavor and doesn’t overwhelm the amazing natural flavors in our sauces.” Down to Ferment buys its peppers from a local family-owned farm and all sauces are vegan and gluten-free. Our favorite is their best seller Smokin' Hot Date which balances sweet Medjool dates with smokey Morita chipotles. 

Find them at 10 different farmers’ markets

The Joint

We love The Joint’s commitment to creating inventive dishes using local, organic products. Weekends are perfect for traveling to Ocean Beach for brunch. Don’t miss chef Chris Osbourne’s decadent Short rib eggs benedict made with free-range eggs and homemade hollandaise. Top it off with a shishito pepper corn cake served with Thai chile honey butter.

Image source: Instagram @grandolebbqflinnsprings.

Grand Ole BBQ 

Some like it hot. If that’s you, pull up a seat at Grand Ole BBQ’s Flinn Springs spacious patio and enjoy live music on weekend afternoons. Owner Andy Harris’s El Boracho sauce features housemade queso mixed with serranos, onions, spices, and lime juice and topped with a bag of crushed Fritos. “Throw that on some ribs or fries and magic happens,” says Harris. El Boracho sauce is his crunchy tribute to his home state of Texas where Fritos are king.

Image source: Instagram @eatcocinadebarrio by @sanfoodiego.

Cocina de Barrio

Hang out for Happy Hour at Cocina de Barrio. You’ll rave over their creative ceviches with vibrant presentations manifest freshness. For a delicious treat to both eyes and palate, try their Mango-Habanero Aguachile Shrimp. Lime-cured shrimp is mixed with crisp seasonal veggies and topped with a mango habanero purée. Top off your taste for spice with a JaliscoExpress tequila cocktail infused with jalapeno. Locations in Hillcrest and Point Loma. 

Image: Olivia Hayo.

Ready to throw some fresh peppers on the grill for a super easy side? Check out this recipe for Charred Sweet Pepper and Corn Salad

Hero image: Maria Hesse.

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About the Contributor
Cherie Gough
Cherie Gough is an award-winning freelance writer based in San Diego. She is passionate about food equity and loves writing about innovative people finding positive solutions.Find her on Instagram @cgoughwrites.