Did you know that France produced chillies? In this article, we'll introduce you to the two chili varieties that symbolize this French chili tradition.
Piment du Béarn and Piment d'Espelette are two varieties of chili grown in south-western France. Although they are both Basque chillies, they have distinct characteristics that make them unique.
Piment du Béarn, grown in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region, is bright red in color and has a slightly sweet flavor. It is also less pungent than Espelette pepper. It can be dried and then smoked over beech, bay or fig wood. The main producer of piment du Béarn is the Malnou family, who work with some of France's top chefs, including Michel Sarran and Pierre Gagnaire.
Piment d'Espelette is grown in the town of Espelette in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region and in 9 neighboring communes. It is orange-red in color and has a slightly smoky, fruity taste. Piment d'Espelette is often used to flavor Basque dishes, such as veal axoa or Basque chicken. It is also known for its moderate heat, which adds a spicy but not overpowering touch to dishes.
Both chillies are grown in the traditional, artisanal way, giving them superior quality. Piment d'Espelette is also protected by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), which means that only peppers grown in the specified region and complying with strict specifications can be labelled as such.
If you're vacationing near Espelette, try to get there on the fourth weekend in October. The Confrérie du Piment organizes the Chilli Festival, an event that has been listed as part of France's intangible cultural heritage since 2014 and attracts over 20,000 people!
To find out more :
- Piment Béarnais en fête à Poey de Lescar, reportage France 3 Nouvelle-Aquitaine (vidéo)
- Espelette fête son piment depuis 50 ans, reportage France 3 Nouvelle-Aquitaine (vidéo)
- Site officiel du Syndicat du piment d'Espelette AOP