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Helpful Herbs: Paprika

One of my favorites spices to use in a wide variety of recipes, Paprika is easy to grow outdoors or in a greenhouse. Growing much like other pepper varieties, Paprika can be started as seedlings and transplanted outdoors, or sown directly in the garden in Zones 6 and higher.

Paprika plants, the Hungarian Kalocsa Pepper, love hot weather, well drained soil, and full sun. They will mature into tall, bushy plants with bright red peppers. The actual pepper from the Kalosca Pepper plant is a mild, sweet pepper much like bell peppers, and you can include it in dishes if you are not looking to create the spice.

You can start harvesting Paprika peppers when they are full and red and dry them in a warm, dry space where the temperature is consistently above 100 degrees. You can also use a dehydrator to speed up the process, but if you hang peppers in a hot place it will take about three weeks for them to be fully dried.

Once your peppers are totally dry, you can create the spice Paprika. Break the peppers into small pieces, and throw out any dried stems or seeds (or save the seeds for new plants). Using a spice grinder (a coffee grinder will also work) you can grind the pieces of pepper into a fine powder. Paprika is then stored in an airtight jar and used in your daily cooking.

Next to salt and pepper, my jar of Paprika is probably the most frequently picked up from my spice rack. With a mild heat and earthy flavor, Paprika is not an overwhelming spice which makes it ideal for a lot of dishes such as eggs deviled or fried, seasoning on a roast, or sprinkling over mashed potatoes. You can use it to season stews, fish, even as a garnish on salads. The flavor of Paprika, when used liberally, is a staple of Hungarian cuisine.

Not only is Paprika a tasty spice, easy to incorporate in a huge number of dishes, and it is also incredibly beneficial to your health. Paprika is full of vitamin A, carotenoids, Iron, and other minerals that help keep your skin healthy, preventing age spots and wrinkles while generally brightening complexion. It is also an anti-inflammatory, which means consuming it regularly can help ease joint pains. Made into a cream or ointment, Paprika is often used to treat sore muscles and other aches.

Paprika may have first been cultivated in Turkey, but it was first cultivated in Hungary around the 17th Century. Quickly it became a key ingredient in Hungarian dishes, and legends abounded that Hungarian warriors road into battle powered by foods spiced with Paprika. Since then, it has been a popular culinary herb, especially in Hungary and Spain. It was also used a red dye for traditional robes.

Once only available as a hot spice, Paprika was refined in the 19th Century with a semisweet version, helping to make it the versatile spice it is today. The Palfy brothers of Szeged were known for their work with ground Paprika and helped to make it a common ingredient around the world.

Easy to grow and easy to incorporate in recipes, Paprika is a helpful herb to add to your vegetable garden. The mild pepper can be used in any kind of dish, or dried to make your own bright red spice.


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