In Lucania, the locals refer to these spicy, aromatic peppers as cruschi and add them to all manner of dishes, as well as enjoying them as an appetizer, much like toasted nuts.
Cruschi peppers are harvested during the peak hot months of summer—from the end of July until the end of September—when they are at the perfect stage of ripeness, hanging heavy on the plant, and taking on a deep red color with a glossy finish to the skin.
Harvesting is labor intensive, as the peppers are picked by hand over very rugged terrain. They are then strung into large wreaths and placed under the intense rays of the summer sun for 20–25 days. When the peppers are dry and wrinkled, the wreaths are dismantled and the peppers are fried in local olive oil until the skin is deep brick red with a soft leather-like texture. The pepper are then packaged and stored for use over the winter months.
How to use
These aromatic peppers bring a new complexity of flavors to winter greens, braised and roasted meats and pasta. Crushi are often coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle and sprinkled over eggs fried in olive oil. They also add incredible flavor to the classic spaghetti aglio, olio e pepperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers).