Some like it hot – especially the 20,000 people making their way to the town of Espelette in the Pyrénées-Orientales today. This weekend the town is hosting the fête au piment.
This celebration of the variety of chilli pepper that is cultivated locally is now in its 47th year. Since its inception in 1968, the festival has become more and more popular – and is now one of the biggest in the region.
Espelette pepper is deep red in colour and has a mild, smoky flavour. It is usually sold in powdered form and is more reminiscent of paprika than of, say, piri piri. The condiment has become a staple of the local Basque diet and is generally used as a replacement for black pepper on dining tables in the area.
As you might expect, there will be plenty of opportunities to taste piment d’Espelette during the course of the celebrations this weekend.
Locals have been preparing for the event for over a month. They began drying the local chilli peppers in September by stringing them together into festoons and leaving them outside to dry on balconies, gates and gutters.
“Locals began drying the peppers in September by stringing them together into festoons and leaving them outside”
As ever, the town will also crown if not Miss Piment, then certainly Madame Piment. 70-year-old Nicole Larroque will collect her prize on Sunday. Her family moved to the town back in the 1600s – at around the same time that the chilli pepper was introduced to the area from Mexico.
If you want to spice up your life, you know where to be today.