The Espelette pepper (French: Piment d'Espelette French pronunciation: [pi.mɑ̃ dɛs.pə.lɛt] ; Basque: Ezpeletako biperra) is a variety of chili pepper that is cultivated in the French commune of Espelette, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, traditionally the northern territory of the Basque people. On 1 June 2000, it was classified as an AOC product and was confirmed as an APO product on 22 August 2002.
The plant, originally from Mexico and to a lesser extent South America, was introduced into France from the New World during the 16th century. After first being used medicinally, it subsequently became popular for preparing condiments and for the conservation of meat and ham. It is now a cornerstone of Basque cuisine, where it has gradually replaced black pepper and it is a key ingredient in piperade.
AOC espelette peppers are cultivated in the following communes: Ainhoa, Cambo-les-Bains, Espelette, Halsou, Itxassou, Jatxou, Larressore, Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle, Souraïde, and Ustaritz. It is harvested in late summer and, in September, characteristic festoons of pepper are hung on balconies and house walls throughout the communes to dry out. An annual pepper festival, attracting some 20,000 tourists, is held in October.
This pepper attains only a grade of 4,000 on the Scoville scale and therefore can be considered not hot. It can be purchased as festoons of fresh or dried peppers, as ground pepper, or puréed or pickled in jars.
- Larousse, p. 92.
- Larousse, p. 804.
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