When is a carrot not a carrot? When it’s a pepper of course! While orange and shaped like our familiar friend the carrot, the Bulgarian Carrot Pepper is unmistakably all pepper. The crisp, sweet, fruity crunch of this pepper is laced with delicious spiciness. Landing on the Scoville Pepper scale in the medium heat range (5,000-30,000), the Bulgarian Carrot Pepper packs some heat but can be enjoyed by those who aren’t pepper heat extremists. Its heat intensity is similar to the jalapeño pepper.
The Bulgarian Carrot Pepper is in the same family ay the potato (Solanaceae) and of the genus Capsicum L, as are most all peppers. It is an heirloom species that originates from Bulgaria. The pepper is also referred to as a shipka. This may be due to the fact that there is a village and a pass in Bulgaria named Shipka, plus the term shipka refers to rose hips, which can also be bright orange. Rumor has it that they were able to spread to Europe and then on to the USA after they were smuggled out of from behind the “iron curtain” in the 1980’s.
Heat up Your Growing Skills!
Trying your hand at growing these fun colorful peppers is an easy endeavor. Choose a place in your garden that gets full sun and has well-drained, slightly acidic soils (pH range 5.5-6.5). Fertilize your soil the year before to provide enough nutrients for these heavy feeders, such as nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. When planting outdoors, do so 2-4 weeks after the last expected frost in your area and temperatures are above 70 degrees F.
Space the peppers out about 1-2’ from one another and as they grow you will see them bloom with white flowers. From the time you sow the seeds, to the time to harvest, you should expect to wait about 75-80 days. The peppers will be ready to pick when they go from their beginning green-yellow color to a bright full orange and the peppers are approximately 3” long.
Keep the Zest in Your Health!
Once these beauties have reached maturity and you have picked a peck of peppers (give or take) it’s time to dine on these sweet spicy delights. Even if you aren’t a heat fan you should give these a try, as they offer several nutritional benefits. A medium sized Bulgarian Carrot Pepper (~20 grams) comes in at about 20 calories and offers 1 gram of protein, < 1 gram of fat, and 4 grams of carbohydrates (with 2 gram as dietary fiber). These peppers are an excellent source of Vitamins A and C and also provide several flavonoids such as quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin. These antioxidants and flavonoids are beneficial in helping improve cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of developing certain types of cancers, regulating blood sugar, and reducing inflammation. One thing that is unique about these peppers, and all those within the Capsicum genus, is that they contain capsaicin. Capsaicin is the chemical compound in the plants that is responsible for the hot or burning sensation of the peppers. Along with helping fight cancer and reducing inflammation, like the antioxidants and flavonoids, capsaicin also oxidizes fat, which can help with weight loss and also provides relief for gastric problems and psoriasis. So these peppers positively pack a powerful nutritional punch!
Make Your Kitchen Sizzle!
To benefit from these spicy nutritional powerhouses you can start adding them to your diet in various ways. They are a great addition when simply chopped up and added to a fresh garden salad or put into your favorite stir fry or omelet. They will add a distinctive sweetness, spice, and color to any dish they are added to, so get creative! My favorite thing to add them to is a fresh baked loaf of bread. Next time you want to kick it up a notch in the kitchen and try something new, try your hand at making this delicious flavor bursting bread!
Bulgarian Carrot Pepper Bread
1- 8oz package Cream Cheese (softened) – full fat is better, but reduced fat can work for this too
2 large Farm Fresh Eggs
4 cups Mozzarella Cheese
2-3 Bulgarian Carrot Peppers – deseeded and deveined* and finely chopped
2 cups Almond Flour
2 tsp. Aluminum-free Baking Powder
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
In a large bowl beat together eggs and cream cheese until fully combined
Add in mozzarella cheese and peppers and stir thoroughly
Add in flour, ½ cup at a time to keep consistency moist, but not overly dry or runny. If you find you have made the dough too dry, just slowly add a few teaspoons of water until ideal consistency is reached.
Once you have the appropriate consistency, stir in your baking powder
Grease pans** with olive oil
Scoop dough into pans until about ½ to ¾ full
Bake*** bread for 13-25 minutes depending on bread pan size chosen. When the top is browning or bread is pulling from the sides, the bread is most likely done. Insert a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the bread is done.
Eat the bread as is, or top with some grass-fed butter or use to dip in your favorite soup. Whatever you choose, just enjoy the heat!
*Note of caution: Peppers are hot and can irritate skin and membranes (i.e. eyes, lips, nose, etc.). So when chopping them wear latex gloves to protect hands and do NOT rub eyes, face, etc. Wash hands thoroughly after chopping and removing seeds and veins. If you want your bread even spicier, leave in the seeds and veins and/or add in more peppers.
**Your choice of a pan is really up to you. This recipe can make small or regular sized loaves, muffins, or even pressed flat to create breadsticks.
***Watch your baking time. If you have a larger loaf pan it will take longer. Muffins and flattened breadsticks will require less time and will crisp up more.
Keep your summer and fall fiery with this captivating capsicum this year. It will add color to your garden and sweet spiciness to your meals. The Bulgarian Carrot Pepper, while definitely not a carrot, it easy to grow and fun to eat and offers a bright cheeriness to any household!
The Chileman.org. Mark McMullan & Julian Livsey. Database of Chilli Pepper Varieties. BIJALA SHIPKA (PI 466904). https://www.thechileman.org/results.php?find=Shipka&heat=Any&origin=Any&genus=Any&chile=1
Choose My Plate.gov. October 7, 2016. US Department of Agriculture. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/tools-supertracker
Hampton, M. November, 2013. Revised January, 2017. University of Florida IFAS Extension. Heirloom Hot Pepper Varieties for Florida. Publication HS1244. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs1244
Haytowitz, D., et al. 2002. US Department of Agriculture. Flavonoid Content of Vegetables. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. V: 15 (4). Pages 339-348. https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400525/Articles/AICR03_VegFlav.pdf
Natural Resource Conservation Service. US Department of Agriculture. Classification for Kingdom Plantae Down to the Species Capsicum annum L. https://plants.usda.gov/java/ClassificationServlet?source=profile&symbol=CAAN4&display=31
Seed Savers Exchange. 2016. Seed Saver Exchange. Pepper, Bulgarian Carrot. https://www.seedsavers.org/bulgarian-carrot-pepper