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15 years experience growing peppers and cucumbers

Christmas Paprika at the Ferry Plaza

The Pepper People

Family Farming Specialty Peppers in the San Francisco Bay Area Since 1980

Local Entrepreneur Spotlight

Addicted to those tender, green pimientos de Padrón peppers that grace the menu of so many restaurants now? You have David Winsberg of Happy Quail Farms in East Palo Alto to thank.

The 58-year-old urban farmer pretty much single-handedly created the craze for the Spanish pepper, one of the oldest non-hybrid ones around. He’s thought to be the first farmer to grow them commercially in California in 1998, after receiving some seeds from a friend who had traveled to Spain.

Padróns have since followed the path of so many other culinary trends that start in the Bay Area and then spread across the country. Winsberg’s Padróns are now found at restaurants as far away as Minnesota, Florida, and Maine. Locally, they’re regularly used by chefs at Zarzuela, Outerlands, Madera, Chambers Eat + Drink, Osteria Coppa and State Bird Provisions. On the heels of his success, other farms have started growing them now, too.

Fried simply in olive oil and sprinkled with salt, they are simple and irresistible. The fun part comes in realizing that one in five generally boasts a spicy kick. You can’t figure out just by looking at them, either, to which one may be hot. With David’s Padróns, though, the odds are a little better, as he’s able to grow them so that only one in every 10 packs a wallop.

You’ll also find David selling them regularly at farmers markets: Tuesdays and Saturdays at the Ferry Plaza in San Francisco, and Sundays in Menlo Park. The business is a true family affair, with his wife, Karin Schlanger, an East Palo Alto family therapist, sometimes lending a hand, along with their two sons, 18-year-old Andreas and 22-year-old Felipe, a recent Princeton University grad.

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