Paprika

Origin & Names

As with the cayenne pepper mentioned in our previous post, paprika is also part of the same Capsicum annum family. Unlike most ingredients where cultivar reflects the name of the end product, paprika is a much more general term which we apply to almost any dried red pepper. The two main varieties of paprika are sweet and smoked. This post focuses only on sweet paprika. 

The word paprika is of Slavic origin and translates to bell pepper. In Spain different names are given to the pepper as it is processed from one form to the next. Bola Americana is the variety of pepper most commonly grown in the fields. After the pepper has been harvested and dried it is referred to as a Nora pepper. Finally once the pepper has been finely ground to a powder it becomes pimentón or paprika.      

Bola Americana Sweet Red Peppers 

Nora Peppers (dried Bola Americana peppers)
 

Paprika (ground Nora Peppers)

Geography & Cultivation

Bell peppers are cultivated all over the world but the largest producers and exporters are in India, China & Peru. Although Spain is one of the largest exporters of paprika most of the dried peppers that are used in its production come from overseas. This has given rise to an important but sensitive discussion in Spain over provenance.

Around 1/3 of paprika produced in Spain is made using red peppers grown within the country. The remaining 2/3 are made from peppers that have been imported from Peru or China. While there is of course nothing inherently wrong with using peppers from different countries, paprika made with peppers from Spain can achieve a higher market price. Many producers therefore are looking to certify their product in order to guarantee provenance and achieve more for their crop. 

Due to the difficulty in recognising the origin of a dried and ground red pepper there still remains ambiguity over origin, even in certified products. In order to try and mitigate this uncertainty we have chosen to work directly with a farmer co-operative in Murcia. They are bell pepper farmers first and foremost who combine their produce each year to make paprika. From what we have experienced first hand, this paprika looks and tastes like the real deal.

 
 

Malolo - head of the farmer co-operative where we buy our paprika 

Food Uses

The peppers that are used to make paprika will dictate largely what the flavour of the final product is. Some paprika may have a mild or more pungent spice if they have used hotter peppers. Others will remain sweet and sometimes slightly bitter depending again on what pepper has been used and also which part of the pepper has been processed. Paprika is a very versatile spice that goes well with many different cuisines but remember to check what type you are buying to ensure it matches the flavour you want in your food. Aside from flavour, paprika also acts a colourant in cooking and can impart an attractive deep red colour to your food.  
 

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