Behold the Bell Pepper
Paprika is more versatile and interesting that I'd ever suspected, beginning with the fact that it's actually ground capsicum annuum, or peppers in the same family as the bell pepper. The bell pepper carries a recessive gene that stops the development of the heat producing capsaicin, so many paprikas are mildly flavored.
The Color of Paprika
The color of the paprika is a good tip as to how hot it will be. The bright reds are usually the mildest, getting hotter as they get browner or yellower. This is a bit counter intuitive. Paprika is relatively tasteless as a garnish, and needs to be heated in order to release its spicy flavor.
You can purchase seeds or seedlings for what are marketed as paprika peppers, They are smaller and longer than the traditional bell pepper, much like the ones shown in the the photo accompanying this post. In many areas of the USA, they are abundant in local gardening outlets in spring.
Paprika is More Versatile Than You May Think
I began developing an interest in paprika when the cooking shows started recommending it for flavor as well as color, and it was through these shows that I realized that two of my favorite sausages, chorizo and linguisa, both rely heavily on the spice for color and flavor.
Paprika Cooking Tips
Although paprika releases most of its flavor when heated, overheating will cause its sugars to burn and make it taste bitter, much like garlic.
Paprika and Your Health
Paprika is naturally high in Vitamin C. Even better, the drying process retains the vitamin's potency, making paprika an excellent supplemental source. Paprika is useful in thinning the blood (an aid to circulation), and current testing suggests that it has value in regulating blood pressure. A natural aid in digestion, as are most peppers, paprika also helps stimulate your salivary glands, aiding in the production of saliva.
One of my planned projects for this summer will be to plant out enough peppers to make my own paprika. I'll bring you along on that adventure.
My next post will discuss cultivating peppers in the garden as well as an explanation of the "hot" in hot peppers.