Harissa, a delicacy that originated centuries ago in Tunisia, consists of blending garlic, various spices, and oil with mashed peppers to form a paste. Harissa’s unique flavor and texture come from the famous pepper that invented it, the Baklouti.
These peppers were first introduced in Tunisia by the Spaniards during the early sixteenth century. The peppers thrived in the North African region. Especially in the northern peninsula of Nabeul, Cap Bon. The soil and climate proved ideal for farming. The pepper grew in popularity and the locals began using the ingredient with a variety of techniques. One of which consisted of mashing the peppers, often sun-dried, into a paste or thick puree, then seasoned with garlic, a touch of oil and spices. Often times this recipe is used for cooking but it is also enjoyed as a dipping sauce and condiment. Har-riss – هرّس quite literally means to mash: giving the paste its name.
Mohamed and I have searched high and low for these peppers in the states: hopeful to produce a Harissa worthy of its name. Because the handful of dried Baklouti peppers sent from back home periodically would not be enough. After many hours of research and creative brainstorming, we came to an astounding realization; [fun fact] Southern California and Northern Tunisia lie on the same latitude and share very similar weather patterns making it possible to adopt the traditional process locally. That along with the expertise of our partnering farmers and lots of great seeds, the Baklouti Pepper Project was well on its way.
Zonzon Organic and local agriculture team at Kandarian Organic Farms will be pioneering this experience in hopes of delivering the best Harissa that is locally sourced and traditionally made.
Follow the journey from seed to jar.