Espelette pepper

Drying Espelette pepper

The Espelette pepper (French: Piment d'Espelette French pronunciation: [pi.mɑ̃ dɛs.pə.lɛt] ; Basque: Ezpeletako biperra) is a variety of species C. annuum that is cultivated in the French commune of Espelette, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, traditionally the northern territory of the Basque people.[1] On 1 June 2000, it was classified as an AOC product and was confirmed as an APO product on 22 August 2002.

Chili pepper, originating in Central and South America, was introduced into France during the 16th century. After first being used medicinally, it became popular as a condiment and for the conservation of meats. It is now a cornerstone of Basque cuisine, where it has gradually replaced black pepper and it is a key ingredient in piperade.[2]

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.[2] An annual pepper festival organized by Confrérie du Piment d'Espelette, held the last weekend in October since 1968, attracts some 20,000 tourists.[3][4]

This pepper attains only a maximum grade of 4,000 on the Scoville scale and is therefore considered only mildly hot. It can be purchased as festoons of fresh or dried peppers, as ground pepper, or puréed or pickled in jars.[2]

Non-AOC espelette peppers are grown and marketed in California as being fresher than imported AOC Espelette peppers.[5]

According to the Syndicat du Piment d’Espelette, the cooperative formed to get the AOC designation, there are 160 producers of AOC Piment d'Espelette which plant 183 hectares and produce 203 tons of powder Piment d'Espelette, 1300 tons of raw pepper,[6] as of the 2014 harvest.[7]


  1. Larousse, p. 92.
  2. 1 2 3 Larousse, p. 804.
  3. Smith, Rachel (Aug 21, 2013). "A-Z of unusual ingredients: Espelette pepper". Telegraph. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  4. "Agenda". Piment D'Espelette. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  5. Karp, David (November 17, 2014). "Local Espelette powder comes to L.A. farmers markets". LA Times. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  6. "Despite Floods and a Tough Season Espelette Harvest Yields 1300 Tonnes of Peppers". French News Online. November 2, 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  7. "La filière". Piment d'Espelette. Retrieved 2 November 2015.


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