Every summer Chicagoans await the harvest of the beloved Melrose Pepper. This sweet Italian pepper tastes similar to a green bell pepper when harvested young and when fully ripe, it is packed with even more robust and sweet flavor. Although it appears spicy, it contains absolutely no heat. The young pepper is a beautiful deep green color and turns brilliant red when ripened.
The Melrose Pepper is unique to the southern Chicago suburbs. It was brought here in 1903 by Lucia and Joseph Napolitano, Neapolitan farmers in pursuit of the American Dream, they named it Melrose after their town of Melrose Park.
Finding this pepper in stores is not easy, only select grocery stores carry it in the late summer months, however you can easily find heirloom seeds online for under $5 and add them to your home garden.
The Melrose pepper can be prepared in a variety of ways; typically stuffed, the sweetness of the pepper pairs well with salty meats and sharp cheeses. It can be braised in tomato sauce and served with a crusty, rustic bread. It can be dried and fried to make traditional Cruschi and used to top creamy polenta.