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Garden Journal

Alma Paprika Peppers very easy to grow

By Paul Barbano | Feb 05, 2014
Paprika peppers are easy to grow; the common variety is Alma paprika.

If they taste so good, why are deviled eggs called “deviled” eggs? The devil is in the spice paprika and the horseradish that usually go into deviled eggs. As far back as 1786, anything that was spicy or hot was called deviled because of the connection between the devil and the extreme heat in Hell. But what if deviled eggs could help prevent macular degeneration?

Paprika is really just a dried, finely ground variety of garden pepper, Capsicum annuum. Paprika peppers are high in Zeaxanthin, the yellow-orange carotenoid pigment. Studies show that high blood serum levels of zeaxanthin reduce the risk of cataract formation and age-related macular degeneration.

Now you can grow your own paprika peppers and make your own eye-saving spice. When we think of paprika we think of Hungary, and paprika's place in such venerable Hungarian dishes as goulash or parikash, but paprika is also used in dishes from Spain, Portugal, Turkey and even South Africa.

Luckily paprika pepper is easy to grow. The most common variety is Alma Paprika. This is a cherry pepper with thick walls. The peppers are short and squat with many lobes. Alma peppers begin life as creamy white, then change first to orange and finally to a brilliant red when fully ripe. Alma pepper plants are very productive, so a few plants will give you lots of peppers. The peppers range from sweet to mildly spicy.

Start your Alma paprika peppers indoors at least eight weeks before you set them out in the garden. Plant the tiny seeds just a quarter inch deep in a good seed starting soil. The seeds will take up to two weeks to germinate. All peppers need heat to germinate, so place them where they get some good bottom heat. You can buy seed heating mats or try placing them on top of the refrigerator where they will get warm.

Wait to transplant them until all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up. Many gardeners use plastic mulch to retain soil heat and keep weeds down. Set the Alma pepper plants a foot to two feet apart in full sun. Ideal soil pH is between 5.5 and 6.0. You should begin harvesting peppers in just 70 days from transplant.

Alma pepper seeds are available from many seed companies including Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsavers.org) and Pinetree Garden Seeds (www.superseeds.com).

You can use the fresh Alma paprika peppers any way you use fresh sweet peppers. Fry them, stuff them with cream cheese or sausage and bake them or slice them and toss into a salad. But it is really very simple to make your own paprika powder. Dry the red ripe peppers on a rack or screen in full sunlight. Cut out the stems and grind them up in a spice mill or a clean coffee grinder.

Paprika powder goes well with baked chicken, seafood, lamb, veal, and vegetables such as potatoes and carrots. As a bright garnish it adds color to potato salad, pasta salad and risotto. You can also sneak in generous amounts into soups and tuna salad.

Plant Alma Paprika peppers now and you will be rewarded with huge yields of paprika peppers. Add paprika to your diet and who knows, you just may avoid cataracts and macular degeneration. It's a devil of a good pepper.

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