Saturday, December 4, 2010

Espelette Pepper Winter Miracle with a Side of Beefsteak Begonia

Last year I was able to purchase hard-to-find Basque Espelette pepper seeds from Europe. I purchased them legally, with my seed importation permit, and although I am aware that when grown outside of their AOC they are no longer considered certified, I had to go through all of this because I love my husband, and he really wanted them. Besides, he knows how to use the dried pepper product, and that seemed important at the time.

Now, almost a year later, and after a horrible summer here in the NW, I have one pepper. It was still green when I brought it in from the garden in October, and then I set about trying to ripen it while it was still attached to the plant. It lives now amongst the houseplants under the lights and it is ripening. We never thought we would see this day, and as pathetic as it might seem, it is our little winter gardening miracle.

In addition to our one little pepper "that can!" I have also been enjoying my Beefsteak Begonia (Begonia 'Erythrophylla') though I think it should have been called Lily Pad Begonia instead. Purchased last year, it grew quite a bit this past summer on the porch and it needed better placement in the house. It now sits beside my chair in the front window and it is very happy there. I cannot wait to see what it does next. 

I have no idea what variety of Begonia this is yet, but this is actually a cutting that is sitting in my window and it is blooming for us right now! What a great little winter gift.  


  1. I am surprised that you had to import pepper seeds from Europe do you not have anything similar in the US?

    Love the lily pad begonia very pretty, havent seen one of those before

  2. Loved hearing about your pepper. I too always want to help along plants that try hard. I have a re-blooming iris with two gorgeous stalks full of buds right now. Too big to bring in, so I have a giant plastic box propped over them even though I know it's hopeless. Where could I get that begonia? The leaves are gorgeous. Carolyn

  3. Dear Ficurinia, The pepper is impressive, but I love that begonia. I am not so good with house plants. Pamela x

  4. patientgardener,
    Finding the seeds for these peppers in the US is very difficult if not impossible. I hope to save the ones from this little one so that we can try again next season. I really want to dry a few more so that we can have the food product I have heard so much about from my husband. The dried spice is available here, but not the seeds. (He is a trained chef and has used it before at a restaurant.)

  5. carolyn,
    I bought the Begonia from this company. They still sell it, but it is the last Begonia on their very long list. Oh! How I wish I could order more right now but it is too cold. Connecticut to Oregon is too far for any plant to travel in December. (Be sure to look at their fern leaf begonia. It is amazing!!!)

  6. Winter garden gifts for sure. The begonia is beautiful. I hope the little pepper lives up to your hopes and plans.

  7. The status of the pepper will be updated, even if that means announcing failure.

  8. I would love to know the special use for this variety of pepper. Is is hotter or spicier. Does it have an unique flavor. My husband is a big fan of cooking with peppers although he is not a chef. But he would be very interesting in an unusual variety.

  9. lifeshighway,
    Hubby says that one restaurant he worked at had a spicy mix, and another restaurant's was more savory but still warm.

    From what I can tell, it is a spice used like paprika, commonly used in Spain, but Basque food, like the language, is something altogether different. I still don't quite get it.

    The Aleppo is also similar to the Espelette and it is easier to find in the US if you want to grow them. I really cannot eat many peppers at all, but I love to grow them. I think they are pretty plants for some reason.

  10. Hi,
    I've not heard of this pepper but I do love Basque food so if it imparts some of that yummy flavor to foods, I want to grow them, too. :)

  11. I'm also very surprised you couldn't find this chillie pepper (we call them peperoncino in Italy) locally. This whole family of plants was introduced from South America into Europe after Columbus but I suppose it could have been crossed in Europe to create a particular taste. Anyway well done for your perseverance, I don’t think I would have the patience. Christina

  12. Christina,
    The Italian peppers you mention look the same, but they taste different. Those seeds are very plentiful here in the US too as are many other common Latin American peppers.

    The Basque Espelette actually has a natural smokiness that lends itself to roasting. That is why the most common substitute for it are the Middle Eastern pepper varieties Aleppo and Urfa.

    Pepper varieties taken from the New World that are cultivated over time elsewhere, are much like wine grapes brought from the Old World to the New. Terroir can play a part in the unique changes that take place over hundreds of years and that fascination is what helps with my patience.

  13. Congratulations on your pepper. I hope your husband enjoys it and appreciates your efforts!

  14. Good luck harvesting your pepper seeds! I eagerly await your update. I'm keeping my fingers crossed cause I know success will be followed by a post featuring your husband's cooking and I can't wait to see how this pepper is used.

  15. Born,
    You are ABSOLUTELY correct! No one has said that yet, but I should have added, there was a carrot being dangled on a stick right in front of my nose.

    If I go through this stuff for him, I do get rewarded. I never even talk about buying him cheese and truffle oil to urge him on.

    Last weekend we were going to go to the Farmer's Market, but we had a girl that would not go. This weekend, we will be going, and you will get some winter veggie recipe ideas!


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