Ark of Taste
Martin's Carrot Pepper
Martin’s Carrot Pepper is a smooth, podded relative of the jalapeño, native to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It gets its name from its long, narrow, carrot-shaped fruit. As the fruit ripen, they turn from pale green to brilliant orange, then turn a deep orange-red. The pods pack a mild heat, which varies depending on ripeness, and the fruit itself is fleshy and keeps well in cool, dry storage, in some cases for as long as 2 months. The thin, flavorful flesh of Martin’s Carrot Pepper is perfect for stuffing, the traditional culinary use of the fruit.
Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit organization based near Decorah, Iowa, that preserves heirloom plant varieties through regeneration, distribution, and seed exchange, is one of the larger purveyors of Martin’s Carrot. SSE quotes William Weaver’s book Heirloom Vegetable Gardening in mentioning one specific cultural approach to preparing the pepper: “I have often been tempted to call this the Pennsylvania Dutch jalapeño, since it can be used like a jalapeño in cookery. The Pennsylvania Dutch who pickle it whole, often serve it stuffed with peanut butter, which makes an interesting hors d’oeuvre, especially when eaten with salt pretzels and beer.”
Seed Savers Exchange also cites Dr. Weaver’s book to trace the history of this heirloom vegetable: “This rare and very old heirloom is believed to have been introduced or developed in the nineteenth century by Mennonite horticulturist Jacob B. Garber (1800-1886) of Lancaster County. It was preserved for many years by the Martin family of Ephrata, Pennsylvania.” SSE elaborates that the Martin family operated a fruit and vegetable stand that William Weaver often visited. Weaver acquired the pepper variety directly from the Martin family in 1971 after the passing of Mrs. Martin.
This heirloom is achieving a foothold as several small seed companies have begun to offer it in their catalogs. With more progress in this direction, this delicious piece of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage will continue to delight for generations to come.