The original form of peppers comes from subtropical and tropical South America. Birds spread the seeds all over the South American continent. There Christopher Columbus discovered the vegetables in the 16th century and brought them back to the monastery gardens of Spain. In the early days, peppers were used more as a pretty plant than as a spice. Although pepper was popular, Europeans first had to get used to the paprika's pungency.
Today, cultivated species of the original pepper plant are native to all warmer countries. The most important growing regions are Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Greece, Italy, southern France and Spain. However, peppers are also cultivated in India, East Asia and the southern USA.
Paprika, botanically correct also, Capsicum annuum, belongs to the annual nightshade family and there are many different species. These differ in size, shape, color and sharpness of the fruits. The pungency of the taste comes from the alkaloid capsaicin, which is contained much more strongly in seeds and partitions than in flesh. The more seeds and partitions are processed, the sharper the paprika powder becomes. Peppers are also an exceptionally good source of vitamins C and E, iron and potassium.
The paprika powder is not made from the well-known vegetable paprika, but from different varieties of spiced paprika. The plant ripens in greenhouses made of seeds. If the plants are strong enough, they go outdoors. Harvesting takes several weeks and is manual work. After picking, the fruit is pulled on strings and dried in the sun for about 3 to 4 weeks. Afterwards, the dried fruits are grounded in the mill.
Paprika is very aromatic and can vary from mild to spicy as well as sweet-fruity taste.
The Hungarians created seven grades of which the following five are most common in trade, in processing and among consumers:
• Delicacy paprika: light or dark red color, aromatic mild taste and sweet-fruity note
• Paprika sweet: is not as vivid red as the delicacy paprika. It is made from fewer seeds and has a mild pungency and sweet-fruity aroma.
• Peppers semi-sweet: dull red or more yellowish-red color. Spicy pungency.
• Pink pepper: less bright and very pure in color, dark or yellowish light red. Very hot.
• Peppers Hot: yellowish brown to reddish brown, very hot
Of course, paprika is the classic spice for goulash. But also in sauces, spreads or dips in combination with cream cheese, cream fraîche, cream or curd cheese, the piquant spiciness is extremely good. Paprika is also very tasty in egg dishes, stews and with game, such as rabbits.
In the professional kitchen, sweet or spicy peppers are perfect for the production of hard cheese, minced meat and sausages.
Store the dried peppers in tightly closed packages in a cool and dark place to preserve their delicate aroma. If stored too long, the paprika powder turns brown and tastes flat.