Espelette

illustration of espelette pepper

Espelette

(CAPSICUM ANNUUM)

A sweet-hot chili grown by rigorous standards exclusively in and around the French town for which it is named.

Espelette is a prime example of how a community can come together to make something really great. About twenty years ago, farmers from the communes surrounding the Basque country came together to ratify a set of rules and regulations for the chiles to perpetuate consistent crops. These regulations covered how exactly the chiles could be grown, harvested, and processed. This resulted in a French AOC geographical origin recognition in 2000, followed by a European POD label in 2002. Now, only chiles grown in these regions and processed by these standards can be sold as Espelette.

The chili is a mainstay in Basque cuisine, where it replaces black pepper in most recipes. It is traditionally used to conserve meat and is found in classic dishes like marmitako (fish stew) and axoa (a veal and tomato dish). Every year in October, a festival is held in Espelette to celebrate this amazing chili.

Flavor & Aroma

Espelette is a truly robust chili. The heat component is met with citrus notes, sweet & acidic tastes, and a gorgeous vibrant orange color. In other words, Espelette is exceptionally versatile and can be used in almost anything savory or sweet, hot or cold, raw or cooked, and it's delicious.

Origin

Native to South and Central America and later in the French commune of Espelette, Pyrénées-Atlantiques. Today, they are cultivated exclusively in this commune. 

Harvest Season

The chiles are planted in the spring and harvested by hand when the color and flavor are considered perfect. The season begins on August 14th and ends, by law, at the end of November. 

Usage Ideas

1. Make a jam with fresh strawberries, whole pistachios, lemon juice, sugar, and ground Espelette to add a touch of heat. 

2. Toss whole cooked chickpeas with ground Espelette, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and serve with roasted peppers and grilled bread. 

3. Stir ground Espelette into a little lemon juice and top with a splash of tequila and ice cubes for a quick cocktail.

Other Pairings

Olive frittata • Endive & goat cheese salad • Duck cassoulet • Mushroom gnocchi • Orange sorbet • Jams & jellies • Bayonne ham 

Recipes

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