Planting Paprika

Paprika is one of the less pungent varieties of red pepper and is widely used as a condiment. It has long been grown for export in eastern and southern Europe and successfully cultivated in the United States. The substance giving red peppers their pungent properties is produced almost entirely in the thin papery tissues to which the seeds are attached. Even in the mild paprika pepper this is somewhat pungent. The degree of pungency of ground paprika may therefore depend on the thoroughness with which these tissues are removed. Removal of the seeds and papery tissue results in a mild product while grinding the whole fruit results in a product of more pungency. The seeds add a nutty, oily flavor. The so called Spanish paprika is the milder type.

The paprika pepper, like the more pungent varieties, is well adapted to southern warm areas from the eastern coastal plain to California. When the weather is warm and sunny, fruit is produced throughout the season and ripens uniformly. However, if there is much rainy and cloudy weather at the blooming stage, the plants sometimes fail to set fruit, and if such weather prevails late in summer the fruit will not color properly and may be damaged by disease.

The paprika pepper grows on a large variety of fertile soils but thrives best on a warm, mellow, well-drained, sandy loam or clay loam type. The plant is propagated exclusively from seed, which may be planted in seedbeds or directly in the field. In beds the seed is sown as early in spring as possible, and the seedlings are then ready to be planted in the field as soon as the danger of frost has passed. They are spaced 12 to 18 inches apart, in rows 30 to 48 inches apart. If there is favorable weather early in spring the seed may be planted directly in the field by drilling in rows three to four feet apart and covering with one inch of soil. When the plants are two to three inches high they should be thinned to stand 12 to 18 inches apart in the rows and missing places filled in as necessary. Frequent shallow cultivation is necessary, and this must be continued throughout the long growing period of the crop.

Fruits of various degrees of maturity are found on the plant in summer and fall because the flowers are produced over a long period. Only fully mature fruits should be picked. Therefore, the harvesting must extend over several months, and the field must be checked at weekly intervals when good ripening weather prevails.