Heir of an ancient heritage, Piment d'Espelette is a sweet-hot pepper grown in only 10 communities in the Basque region of France. The peppers are planted in the spring in an area totaling only 3,000 acres, nestled at the foot of the mountain, and harvested by hand as soon as the fruit turns red, from August to the beginning of December. The pepper is so popular that it has its own festival, attracting thousands of visitors, held the last weekend of October in the village of Espelette.
Piment d'Espelette is the only spice in France to be protected under the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), designating it a unique product grown in one well-defined region (think Champage!). It is rare in the US with only 133,000 pounds of powdered Piment d'Espelette produced annually.
It is a mild pepper that has a fruity, slightly smoky flavor that is difficult to describe and impossible to duplicate. Best used at the end of meal preparation or as a finishing pepper to keep its full flavor.