Posted by: briellethefirst | August 20, 2011

Paprika


Pepper plants

Pepper plants

Explorers to the New World took all sorts of cool things back to Europe. Capsicum annum, paprika, was among them. I’m glad. It’s fun to grow and use and I use a lot of it in my cooking. It’s an occasional resident in my garden and usually surprises people. They usually ask if it’s jalapeño or some other hot pepper. They do look similar, but my skinny red pepper is sweet. I got my seeds from Nichol’s Garden Nursery catalog. They have a website: https://www.nicholsgardennursery.com/store/

Grow paprika like any pepper. They seem to like a little shade where summers are hot, like Arizona and Florida, and they seemed to love the humidity in Florida. They’re susceptible to the same bugs and diseases as other peppers as well as their relatives in the nightshade family: tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and tobacco. I don’t let people smoke around my garden so they can’t spread any diseases from the tobacco. The bushes are pretty, asymmetrical, delicate (they break easily) and don’t get terribly big and they make nice potted plants. I had 4 in a 12 inch pot one season.

Ground paprika

Ground paprika

I’ve used it fresh and dried. When you use it fresh it doesn’t matter whether it’s red or green but red is flashier. Just chop, slice or ring it and throw it into whatever you’re simmering or sautéing. It is a great help to roasts, fish, fowl, eggs, pasta, veggies, herbed butters and herb blends (when it’s dry).

To preserve it I usually dry it but freezing works, too. Just chop it, freeze it in measured servings, bag it and use as needed. If it sticks together just bang it on the counter. Drying is just like other herbs but takes a little longer (fruits are juicier than leaves). Cut them into strips or dice them and when they’re dry store in a glass jar. If you want to be more decorative you can string them into a ristra and just hang them until they’re dry. Make sure they’re clean, dry and unbruised and have good air circulation so they don’t get fuzzy. You can grind them in a mortar and pestle or an old coffee mill as you need the powder. You won’t want to use the coffee mill for coffee again, though. If you decide to start going the mortar and pestle route you may get addicted and start a collection, different sizes, styles and materials for different uses. You can even find them in big-box-stores. Oops, yet another shopping spree.

Pepper flowers

Pepper flowers

If you don’t have room or a sunny place to grow your own (since that would be just about the only reason not to) you can buy it. The most familiar may be Hungarian (origin of goulash and chicken paprikash) but it is also grown in Spain, California and the Netherlands. It’s high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Apparently it can also be added to henna for a different red when colouring hair.

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