Deep in Italy’s rugged south west – the ‘toe of the boot’ – the Calabrian summers are dry and hot. Very hot. Perfect conditions for growing the region’s best-loved ingredient – chillies. The fierce sun pumps the fruits full of flavour and chilli-heat and then slowly dries the picked chillies to intensify their potency even further. Come late summer, strings of home-grown fiery red peperoncini hang at almost every door and window; they’re traditionally reputed to ward off diseases.
Such is the passion for the peperoncino here that L’Accademia Italiana del Peperoncino (The Italian Chilli Academy) has been established to promote the gastronomical and medical properties of chillies. Each September it organises the annual chilli festival: a feast and street party not for the faint-hearted, and even less for those with sensitive palates. Continue reading