"During the harvest season in Espelette, Lambourd province, the whole village turns red. Small, red peppers are strung by hand and hung in garlands on the outside of each house to dry in the late autumn sun."1
The Piment d'Espelette (Ezpeletako Biperra) is a small, mild red chili pepper grown in the Basque region of France. Named for the town Esplette in France's Nive Valley, the peppers can be used fresh but are generally exported in their dried, powdered form. The taste is a bit sweet and spicy, yet mildly salty and smoky.
Piment d'Espelette powder is still produced using traditional methods: harvested peppers are strung by hand into garlands, hung outside to dry, then smoked in wood-fired ovens. The dried peppers are then ground into a fine, orange-red powder. Pepper harvests are not combined; each jar of Piment d'Espelette powder is the product of a single farm in the approved growing area of just 3,000 acres. Yes, there’s an approved growing area - the Piment d'Espelette is protected under French law as Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC - controlled designation of origin).
Piment d'Espelette powder is wonderful in rich, bland foods as a replacement for both salt and pepper. Try sprinkling a bit on buttered, baked potatoes or in eggs scrambled with cheese. It is also a great seasoning for any dish with tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and onion – the foundation of the classic Basque Piperade.
Family: Solanaceae ♦ Genus: Capsicum ♦ Species: Annuum ♦ Cultivar: Piment d'Espelette ♦ Scoville Scale: Mild - about 4,000
1Hirigoyen, Gerald: The Basque Kitchen. p 18.
Official website of the AOC Espellete Pepper (in French)