The plant, originally from Mexico and to a lesser extent South America, was introduced in France from the New World around the 16th century. After first being used medicinally, it has since become popular for preparing condiments and for the conservation of meat and ham. It is now a cornerstone of Basque cuisine, where it has gradually replaced black pepper and it is a key ingredient in piperade. AOC espelette peppers are cultivated in the following communes: Ainhoa, Cambo-les-Bains, Espelette, Halsou, Itxassou, Jatxou, Larressore, Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle, Souraïde, and Ustaritz. It is harvested in late summer and, in September, characteristic festoons of pepper are hung on balconies and house walls throughout the communes to dry out. An annual pepper festival, attracting some 20,000 tourists, is held in October.