Espelette chili peppers hang from the facade of a building in the village of Espelette in French Basque Country.
What is Piment d’Espelette? Red chili pepper from the Basque region of France, just across the border from Spain, in the Nive Valley. The powdered form of Espelette pepper provides a subtle heat, and can be used as a colorful substitute for ground black pepper, cayenne, or hot paprika.
Only Piment d’Espelette grown and packed in one of just ten villages nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees is given AOP certification, a protected designation of origin that assures quality and authenticity. From one description I read, that had been (somewhat) translated from the French, this seal “implies a close link between this specific land, the product and the talent of men.” So, there you have it.
The chili pepper’s name comes from the village of Espelette (Ezpeleta in Basque), one of the aforementioned ten quaint villages. The winding streets are closely lined with small, old houses and boutiques maintaining the tradition of drying the eponymous peppers from their facades.
The pepper first arrived in the village in 1650, when a Basque sailor returned from the New World with the vibrant pepper. Over time, the pepper because a cornerstone of Basque cuisine, a ubiquitous ingredient even deemed worthy of its own festival, celebrated annually on the last weekend of October with traditional dances, concerts, parades. As good an excuse for a party as anything.
Visit the links below to learn more about Piment d’Espelette and the village which provides its name.
Espelette Tourism Guide from Eusk Guide. If you're considering a trip to Basque Country, this is a good place to start.
Luke Nguyen’s France. Luke visits the village of Espelette, sees some peppers, has a great time.