What are Elephant Ears peppers?
The Elephant Ears pepper (a.k.a. Slonovo Uvo) is a no-heat paprika-type sweet pepper that originated in (and is primarily cultivated throughout) the Balkan Peninsula. It’s particularly tied to Croatia and Serbia where these chilies are often grown in home gardens and used for the popular Serbian condiment ajvar. It’s one of the larger chilies you’ll see, growing over time both tall and wide while slightly flattening in shape. The result is no surprise given the name — a fruit that resembles an elephant’s ear.
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Elephant Ears pepper fast facts
|Scoville heat units (SHU)||0|
|Median heat (SHU)||0|
|Jalapeño reference point||2,500 to 8,000 times milder|
|Origin||Serbia, Croatia, Balkan Peninsula|
|Size||6 inches tall, 4 inches wide, broad and flat|
How hot are Elephant Ears peppers?
This is as low-heat as peppers get. Elephant Ears are sweet peppers and as such they carry no overall heat — a zero on the Scoville scale. They’re more akin to a bell pepper in this way than a jalapeño (2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units) being infinitely milder.
Where do these chilies originate?
The Balkan Peninsula, specifically Serbia and Croatia, is where the Elephant Ears pepper hails. They are so popular that they are often grown in home gardens, and they make the base for many different Balkan condiments and sauces. The most famous being the Serbian condiment ajvar (a tangy pepper relish — see a version of the recipe here.) It’s the pepper of choice for ajvar.
What do they look like?
They look as you’d expect from the name, like elephant ears. This is seriously one big, broad pepper, growing roughly six inches long and four inches wide. What’s interesting (and creates the “elephant ear” illusion) is many of the fruits flatten some as they mature. And as they do, they take on an even more broad elephant ear-like shape.
These peppers have your typical coloration pattern — aging on the vine from green to red and growing in sweetness as they mature.
How’s the flavor? What do they taste like?
Elephant Ears are sweet peppers, so sweetness is obviously the predominant flavor, especially as they mature into their red form. But there’s a depth to the sweetness here that’s quite delicious — think a light fruitiness, almost a touch of apple in the flavor. It’s especially prevalent because the walls of this pepper are thick and meaty.
What are some good uses for this pepper?
Beyond the traditional use for ajvar and other Balkan condiments, Elephant Ears peppers make an excellent red bell pepper substitute, particularly if you enjoy that sweeter flavor.
Elephant Ears are big with thick walls, just like bells. And as such, they make excellent stuffing peppers. That sweetness here works incredibly well when stuffed with fillings featuring rich, salty meats like sausage, bacon, or other forms of pork, as well as fruits.
The natural sweetness, too, makes this an excellent pepper to simply roast or grill on its own with a little olive oil. Or — like other sweet peppers — simply chop it up for use in salsas, sandwiches, or salads. Here, too, that natural sweetness pairs very nicely with fresh fruits.
Where can you buy Elephant Ears peppers?
You won’t commonly find these peppers at your local supermarket. Instead, check local farmers markets or pepper farms for their stock.
You can also — if you have a green thumb — grow these peppers at home in your garden. The seeds are relatively easy to source (Amazon). They don’t make great candidates for container gardening as the plants themselves can grow up to three to four feet tall (they need to be big to handle these peppers.) You’ll need a big container and decent space to make it work.
But if you have a garden plot, Elephant Ears pepper plants mature in the summer and fall and produce a surprising number of fruits — around twenty per plant.