Peperoncino

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Italian Products - Peperoncino
Peperoncini drying in the southern Italian sunshine - Photo: www.understandingitaly.com
Peperoncino (pl. peperoncini) is a longish, thin chili pepper known as Capiscuum Annuumi or Peperoncino di Cayenna. It is in the middle of the ranges of heat for chilies and is the one that is grown and used in southern Italian cuisine.

Hot spicy food is not particularly a favourite with Italians and is not part of the menu for most of the regions... until you travel further south that is. Somewhere around Naples a few spicy bits and pieces appear on pizzas, or in salami and sausages in the Campania region. By the time you hit Basilicata things begin to hot up with spicy meats, peperoncino sprinkled in some dishes and oil heavily diffused with peperoncino to drizzle on your pasta. And then comes Calabria - the further south in this region you go the hotter the food and the peperoncini become. They lace most things with it, including salami, sausages, oil, grappa, chocolate and gelato.

In the late summer, early autumn most of the houses in southern Calabria will have strings of peperoncino hanging from their houses to dry out and be used in the winter months. This area of southern Italy first started eating peperoncino as it was meant to be a deterrent for malaria carrying mosquitos. Malaria has long since left the region but the love of peperoncino has remained. Peperoncino has become a bit of an obsession in Calabria and is now believed to be an aphrodisiac, openly being sold as such in many tourist shops in the region. There is even a peperoncino festival in Daimante every September where products are sold, including the now famous 'La Bomba Calabrese 'which is a paste made with olive oil and the hottest of the years peperoncini . This year the dates are the 10th - 14th September.

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