My friend Sienna usually gives me delicious gifts. Chocolates, cheeses, spices, beans. But sometimes she also gives me gag gifts. You know, dish towels with some sort of alcoholic housewife reference. Or a sexy apron. So when she gave me a tube full of ground hot pepper for Christmas, labeled Erotico, I just assumed I’d store it away with that sexy apron.
But it turns out Erotico is actually a name of a hot pepper. And that hot pepper is grown by a lady farmer in Tuscany named Rita. And is only one of 200 varieties, and about 30,000 plants on the farm. All hot peppers. And all organically and biodynamically grown.
I finally got beyond the sexy name of the pepper last March when I visited the food fair Taste in Florence. Rita’s stand, Peperita, was one of the first I visited. And of course the reason it attracted my attention was that I recognized my Erotico tube of hot pepper. I ended up tasting almost all of the 16 hot peppers she sells as ground spices. From Number 1 (Aji) to Number 16 (Trinidad Scorpion), each one was completely different, varying not only in the hot factor (nicely labeled 1-16), but also fruitiness, and other more subtle flavors like hints of ginger, citrus and even chocolate. I’m so often disappointed with ground hot pepper, since it is either old and tasteless, or just plain hot without any other notes. All of the peppers I’ve used from Peperita deliver not only spice and burn, but also incredible flavors I’ve never picked up before. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’ve rarely tasted dried hot peppers that are not only so carefully grown, but extremely fresh.
Rita gave me a few samples to play around with, which I did very quickly. So quickly I was soon trying to figure out how to order more online, or even go visit her farm. Which is why I was so happy run across her brand new store in Rome, the other day.
The tiny store is located in the Jewish Ghetto, just off Piazza Mattei, and sells not only the ground peppers, but also spreads, sauces and flavored oils. All made, of course, with Rita’s home grown peppers.
Rita’s pepper farm is part of the family farm which produces several excellent organic, extra virgin olive oils, so there is plenty of that too.
Now that Peperita has opened in Rome, I guess there is no reason for me to make the trek up to Tuscany to visit her pepper plantation. Except the thought of 30,000 pepper plants is kind of impossible to get out of my head.
via della Reginella, 30
tel. 347 3676352
Monday to Sunday 10,30 – 20,00