by Biodiversity Intern Alaine Janosy
In 2005, when Jimmy Nardello’s Sweet Italian Frying pepper was “boarded” to Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, the pepper was considered endangered, putting the variety at risk of being lost forever. At the time, the pepper was available from just a handful of mail order seed companies in the United States and Canada. Recognizing the pepper’s rich history, cultural significance, and culinary viability, the U.S. Ark Committee voted to include the variety on the U.S. Ark of Taste. This decision took the variety off a path of extinction and put it on a path of successful propagation.
Today, when you search for Jimmy Nardello’s Sweet Italian Frying pepper on Local Harvest, a list of over 200 sellers from their database of farms, farmer’s markets, restaurants, and grocery stores is returned. The variety is even available in both seed and pepper form directly through the Local Harvest online store. This is quite an astounding shift in availability in just 4 short years.
Jimmy Nardello’s Sweet Italian Frying pepper is considered a U.S. Ark of Taste success story. It is a demonstration of how simply making people aware of a particular heritage product can lead to its revitalization. The pepper’s resurgence has even made it accessible for those who think they do not ‘know much about vegetables’ like blogger Cristin Kearns Couzens. A link to her blog post about the pepper is here.