Melrose Peppers, It’s a Chicago Thing!

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I couldn’t let summer fade away without posting about Melrose Peppers, a local variety of peppers that are at their peak right now. Back when I started my blog three years ago I think my second post was about Melrose Peppers, since then I have gotten numerous emails from fellow and former Chicagoans expressing their love for this humble pepper, just a couple of days ago I received this touching email from a man who pretty much sums up the feelings of so many regarding this delectable pepper, my family included!

“Oh Memories of “Ma” Josephine Selefski I have been having a craving for a few weeks now. Quietly searching and coming up empty. Feeling waves of anticipation, Similar to planning a wedding, birth of a child, your 21st birthday …Alas today. Today was the day! I found at the local grocery store “Melrose” peppers. Fresh succulent vine ripened tomatoes, fresh, still warm crispy crusty bread.

Sharp provolone cheese and pan oil roasted Melrose peppers, topped with a drizzle of vinegar and oil with Italian seasoning.Those of you who know the deliciousness … be aware the peppers are in season. As for those who don’t … I have to say my vocabulary is not large enough to explain. Think perhaps mouth- gasms. Ma turned this then young Polish kid into a Melrose pepper eating machine.

As I tore into this wonderful Sandwich, all I could do was close my eyes, savor the flavor and bow my head in thanks for that sweet woman that created so many great memories and introduced me to these flavors.

Thanks Ma, God bless you and keep you in his heart.”

Everyone has their own special way of making and preparing them that is near and dear to their hearts, my husband loves them simply sauteed in olive oil with a little red sauce added, he will make a whole meal out of them with some good crusty bread and a few hunks of provolone cheese!

On how they originated here the story goes like this, an Italian family immigrated to Melrose Pk, Il, which is a western suburb of Chicago, they brought with them the seeds of these tender and sweet thin skinned peppers.
They quickly became very popular among gardeners in the Italian community and then a local and very well loved fruit and vegetable market started selling them and made them extremely well known, and the rest is history!
Sometimes I like to change it up and stuff them, even though it’s time consuming it’s so worth it!
But ever since I discovered this seed and stem remover it’s made my life alot easier, it’s my new favorite gadget and I only payed $4.00 for it! Not only does it do a great job seeding and coring peppers, I use it to clean out the gills from portobello mushrooms, also great for seeding cucumbers and tomatoes and steming strawberries.

There are many ways to stuff Melrose Peppers, in the past I’ve used Italian sausage and fontina cheese, in this case I used Italian sausage as well as a mixture of ricotta, mozzarella, grated romano cheese, eggs and basil. I usually alternate between the cheese mixture and the sausage as I’m stuffing the pepper. I like to use a zip lock bag with the tip cut off for ease in doing the ricotta mixture, also a quick saute of the peppers beforehand makes them easier to handle.

Place them single layer in a baking dish with a light marinara sauce spooned over top , cover loosely with foil and bake at 375F until tender and the cheese and egg mixture is cooked through.

You might have come across this type of red pepper in your market sometimes refered to as Ancient Sweets red peppers, typically they are very long about 10 inches, since they’re so big they’re great for stuffing with whole pieces of sausage, nice and sweet and very tender similar to the Melrose Pepper.
Hope you’re enjoying all the local and seasonal produce in your areas as summer winds down.
Buon Appetito!
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  1. I tried them for dinner sauted with homegrown teeny tomatoes, garlic bread and hot Italian sausage!!! They were really great! This meal will absolutely happen again!!! Thanks!

  2. I just found your website. I am Italian, so all your recipes look so good to me.
    I never heard of Melrosettlement peppers. Are they a Midwest variety? I’m on the east coast.

    ARE they hot?

    Where did you get the seeding and coring gadget?

    • The seeds originally came from Italy and years ago a family planted them in their garden around Chicago, he started selling them at farm stands and they soon became famous, they are not hot but sweet with a very thin skin.

  3. Could you freeze these? If so, would you recommend freezing before or after baking? I got 10 pounds of ancient sweets and am trying to figure out what to do with them. Thanks!

    • You probably could before but when defrosted they wouldn’t taste the same, maybe too much moisture, so I would try cooking them then freezing.

  4. Anthony Ross says

    My grandmother’s family, Giordano, brought the pepper to Melrose Park via Philadelphia from Calabria, Italy. When they came here from Italy early turn of the century, most Giordano’s stayed on the east coast but my great grandmother and father settled in Melrose park. If you know of the now closed Maywood race track, on that same plot of land was the Giordano pepper farm, where they cultivated the plant and accustomed it to North American climates.

    • Wow, that’s an amazing story Anthony! I always wondered how they came to be here, I heard bits and pieces but your history and background is one I’ll always remember now and I’ll tell my friends and family because we are all so fond of melrose peppers, thank you for your comment

  5. cannot fing in chicago, always thought july was the month for them

  6. marlene melesio says

    Can I have them shipped to Fl. I love Melrose peppers I am from Franklin Park Ill.

  7. This is so awesome to read. We (husband) tried these for the first time yesterday! (8/16/15) My husbands brother in law cooked them. His great grandfather (Naples) brought the seeds over from Italy to Chicago!! While there we heard the wonderful story of how they (peppers) came to the US. We live in Oregon and an Uncle mailed him a box of peppers. He was so excited to cook them for everyone! They truly are delicious!

    • What a great comment! I just made some more tonight! Are you on Instagram? Check out prouditaliancook, I showed a pile of them I got at a store named Caputo’s over the weekend. If you’re not on Instagram you can go to the front of my website, on the right hand side you’ll see some icons, click on the camera, you can see my Instagram gallery there.

  8. Does anyone know where in Melrose Park I might be able to purchase melsrose peppers. Or in the Schaumburg area where I live? Where can I get one of those pepper corer/seeder tools?

    • Go to Caputo’s in Addison on Lake St, there might still be some left. The seeder corer you can get on line from Amazon Joyce.

  9. Can you buy them canned?

  10. I just saw a huge basket of them at marianos on Elston right at the front of the produce section toward the entrance. I would suspect the other locations should have them as well, but can’t be sure.

  11. as an expat chicagoan, i was tickled to find that my neighbors here in portland, oregon, were growing melrose peppers. today they gave me one of their first to ripen. what i (very successfully) did with it: slowly sauteed some minced sweet onion in olive oil, added a little butter and, when it had melted, a minced ripe red melrose and sauteed until it was soft. upped the heat, added a pinch of salt and the juice of half a lime, reduced it a little and, at the finish stirred in a minced handful of basil. served it over grilled salmon (also in season). what a fine pepper! and a nice article. thanks.

  12. Jesus Diego Olivas says

    Longtime lurker here. Just letting you know that I spotted a good amount Melrose Peppers at Pete’s Fresh Market in Oak Brook:
    17w675 Roosevelt Rd.
    Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181 is the address. They’re near the Jalapeños section…I’ll get some next time.

  13. Filippo Carlo Levatino says

    green pepper corer and the stem and seed remover can be found at so forget wal-mart. Not bad for a computer challenged senior citizen.

    Don Filippo

  14. Filippo Carlo Levatino says


    At What Wal Mart did you find the pepper seeding device? I’ve been waitng for your reply to that inquiry. Please be so kind to share where I can find this unique device. If all goes right I’ll be moved to Texas by the end of September and I’ll have the winter to get everything set up to not only grow Melrose Pepper but San Marzano Tomatoes. Your assistance would be most appreciated.
    Grazie mille,

  15. Filippo Carlo Levatino says

    Marie: New Comment
    Exactly what Wal-Mart and Where did you discover and purchase your pepper seeding device.
    Grazie Mille,


  16. Filippo Carlo Levatino says

    Exactly what Wal-Mart and Where did you discover and purchase your pepper seeding device. I live on the Near North Side of Chicago and I’ll travel to find “yoour” Wal-Mart. That device looks like something one would want to purchase seceal of and k0eep around for a LONG time.
    Grazie Mille,


  17. Filippo Carlo Levatino says

    I’d love to fins a grocer who carries Melrose Pepper in Chicagoland. So far it’s not happening.
    I’m soon leaving Chicago for Frisco, Texas our daughter and her family moved there and that’s where our son-in-law has his Dental practice doing implants.
    I have researched Melrose Pepper growing and found a source for them. Texas has a longer grwing season and I intend to grow lots of them and open a Chicago Italian Beef stand with eggs and green pepper sandwiches on Friday. I’ve got to teach those Texans that nothing beats an Italian Beef Sandwich with Sweet Peppers or with good hot giardenier. Bar-B-Q Brisket is nice BUT Italian is better.

    Anyway, I love your recipes and I’ll belooking for the seed removing device

    • Filippo, Enjoy your new adventure in Texas, if I ever get there I’ll look up your beef stand!

    • Caputo’s in Chicago used to carry these.I was born and raised in Chicago now live in upstate NY 77years old now .My uncle Pete from Melrose Park was the original grower of Melrose Peppers and sold them to local italian markets.I am growing some now in the house,never before did I try.There are several Caputos even in Melrose Park I think.

  18. As a child I remember my mom stringing these peppers and hanging them in an old pair of pantyhose to dry. We would crumble them up in scrambled eggs. Last year I found Melrose peppers at Caputo’s in Palatine. I bought a bunch, strung ’em up and dried them. I gave all the woman in my family a couple of strings for Christmas. They were a huge hit…this year I made Limoncello to give away….my head is still pounding….we had a blast. Ciao!

  19. lived in nw in all my life-eat in chi as much as i can
    had these 1st time at the purple pig on mich ave—yumm!
    googled and found this site—now i HAVE to come in a try to find them at a market!
    thanks so much for reciepes and pix!

  20. Awesome! Saw these in my grocer the other day and bought some. Can’t wait to try some of these ideas! My first Melrose experience! I love the story also regarding how they came to us in the states. Gonna try stuffing them with morells and fontinella and ricotta

  21. says

    Many of my customers were from the Melrose Park area,& after eating at Thodorie’s on 17st my god who wanted to go back to work… Stuffed Melrose Peppers w/ hot susage // or Hard cheeses many different types! OR ground Veal! Fried w/ Zucchini Flower’s & MP & egg’s I could go>On>ON>&ON
    Try finding these Dishes>>>>>>> IN>> INDIANA>NO>PLACE!

  22. In Serbia, we grow green and red. Red peppers we usually grill or bake in the owen, peel them, dip them in the dough, then salted eggs and fry. It is simple and so tasty. Or we make salad: bake, peel, make a mixture of salt, pepper, oil, vinegar, peeled and diced garlic and parsley. It is better if you put them in fridge and cool them.
    Green peppers are usually cut on half or not, it is up to you, and fried on little oil. When they are soft, we just add some salt and pepper, diced garlic and parsley. Sometimes we fill them with the grated potatoes and bake them in the oven. Oh million ways to make them! Beautiful 🙂 Although, I have to admit that the taste is a little bit richer, and they are not so skinny like the one I found in USA.

  23. Love this! I have never seen these here. I must be going to the wrong markets!

  24. Wow those looks beautiful… And what a beautiful letter! I’m delighted to have discovered your blog…

  25. Marie, this looks absolutely stupendous. YUM!!!

  26. Those alone may be worth the trip to Chicago! And of course, to pick up one of those gadgets as well. Though surely I could find that here too 🙂

  27. Can you believe I have never had a Melrose pepper? And I just got home from Chicago (from my second trip!). Next year I will seek them out for sure! Yours look fabulous, love the green pepper and the red sauce…
    It was so nice to see you, and I am so glad that you and Courtney could come to our dinner at GATG, I hope our paths cross again soon!

  28. You are making me envious now!
    Stuffed with cheese sounds wonderful

  29. Yes, Marie – we have those Ancient Sweets here in our grocery. I had never heard of the other name before – Melrose Pepper. Very interesting. Your recipes look so good!

  30. You are blessed with a unique gift to cook and make everything look so drool worthy.

  31. I think we call these beauties Capscium here in Australia. Love them. We’ve just started Spring here and even though the weather’s getting warmer, I might make a dish of these. They look wonderful!

  32. Marie, thank you so much for your kind comment.

    I definitely need to take a trip to Chicago! I would love to try a Melrose pepper. What a great gadget also!

  33. Are the Melrose Peppers the same as Italian Roasting Peppers?

    I think it was the mention of Melrose Park, but the first thing this reminded me of was Clara Cannucciari, author of Clara’s Kitchen and the YouTube series Great Depression Cooking. She was born and raised in Melrose Park.

  34. I grew up in Melrose Park. The Naples are close family friends. I am reminded of our frequent visits to the market. Your peppers made me a bit emotional for the good old days.

  35. My family in California makes peppers and tomatoes with anaheims, although sometimes they can be hot

  36. I wonder if the Anaheim peppers I am growing would work?

  37. PS Next time I’m in the suburbs and shop in a Walmart (there is noy one Walmart in all of NYC) I am going to buy that handy pepper corer!

  38. Hi Marie!

    I’m not sure if i’ve come across those delicious sounding Melrose Peppers before here in NYC. Isn’t it wonder how a food can conjure up such wonderful memories?

    I do love the similar looking sweet and hot “banana peppers” which I grow every year in my backyard. I grill them whole to soften them and remove their skin, and then I stuff them with an anchovey and then drizzle extra virgin olive over them and let them sit for a day or two. They are so good as an appetizer! I love the spicy hot version, but grow both, as my daughter likes them sweet.

  39. Oh My Gosh, I am drooling on my desk. These look absolutely fabulous.

    It was actually your last recipe of Italian sausage and fontina cheese which inspired me to start making stuffed peppers again.


  40. Oh, man. Now you just have me so jealous because we can’t get those peppers here. They look beautiful and delicious! Very nifty gadget too. My mouth is watering for peppers now. Beautiful post, Marie.

  41. Hi Theresa, I found it at Walmart!

  42. I could make a meal of this myself. Annnnnd, I love that gadget you got there! Where did you find that?

  43. Melrose peppers are a Chicago thing only, we don’t have them here on the east coast.
    I know they are Tony’s favorite!
    They look delicious!

  44. Those are beautiful! I’ve got 6 pepper plants that are just about ready to be plucked. I might have to try something like this.

  45. PS – I LOVE that tool you use to scoop out seeds and I need to find one asap.

  46. We’ve been eating those all our lives but I never knew they were Melrose peppers. I love all those ways you talked about (and showed) of preparing them, and that letter a reader sent you is priceless. You’re a treasure bringing back loving memories to so many people.

  47. The dishes look delicious and the peppers sound interesting – I may grow some next year – always looking for new pweppers to try.

  48. I have learned another thing today… I want that gadget!

  49. I’ve never heard of these! I’m going to have to ask some of my Chicagoan classmates about them. The recipe looks delicious!

  50. I am sure that is what is growing in my gardens(Matthew – son-person) brought home some free plants from the garden center where he worked. I have just been – well eating them. But now I am thinking,”must stuff, must stuff.”

  51. Love the blog, we share many of the same interests in food and food blogs

  52. Marie, you are making my mouth water…going first thing in the morning to get the peppers and fresh bread….!! Thanks for sharing. Mary Alice


  1. […] was grilled or fried and put on an Italian roll. The sausage was topped with my mom’s fried Melrose peppers. The simple purity of the sausage ingredients lets each one stand out. The crunch of the bread and […]

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