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Piment dEspelette: Basque Pepper Adds Complex Warmth to Foods

Its a controlled substance you can buy without a prescription: The red peppers of Espelette, in the Basque region of southwestern France, produce the only spice that can legally be called piment d'Espelette,Espelette pepper or in the Basque language Ezpeletako biperra.

A French law with its roots in the middle ages protects the Espelette pepper, along with more than 500 wines and other agricultural products including lavender and honey, by specifying exactly where in France the food can be produced in order to be labeled with a place of origin.

Whenever you see the letters AOC, for appellation d'origine contr┤le, on the label of a French food or beverage, it means the product is covered by this controlled designation of origin law.

Although the peppers of Espelette are believed to have originated in the New World perhaps in Mexico over the centuries they have adapted themselves to the Basque climate and soil and their complex, smoky warmth has become a hallmark of authentic French Basque cuisine.

French Basque farmers still hand-harvest their crop as they have done for hundreds of years, and harvest time is popular with tourists who flock to see the colorful strings of peppers hanging out to dry (commercial crops are often dried in wood-fired ovens or tobacco sheds).

No more fiery than the hottest of paprikas, Espelette pepper lends itself to a wide range of dishes both savory and sweet try it in your favorite chili-chocolate cookie recipe, or in a long-simmering mole. You can experiment with a small amount from our Oxbow shop, or order a jar online at wholespice.com.

Pimentd' Espelette also adds a hint of smoky warmth to this quick dish:

Mushrooms with Pimentd'Espelette- Click link for Recipe