How to Grow Paprika Peppers
Paprika peppers add to the spice of life with their mildly warm and earthy flavor. Overlooked by many gardeners, these mild peppers are easy to grow. They are a cinch to dry and to grind into spice for many common dishes. They are also delicious when used straight from the garden as a crispy snack. Or give them a try tossed into a salad for a hint of heat and for a nice nutritional boost.
Paprika peppers (capsicum annuum) are native to the most southern portions of North America, to Central America, and to South America. They grow as perennials in the warmer climates of their origination, but they are treated as annuals in most gardens in the U.S.
Paprika peppers are high in vitamins A and C. Make some room for these guys in your next garden. You won’t be disappointed!
How to Grow and Care for Paprika Peppers
Paprika peppers are naturally accustomed to the long growing seasons of warm climates, so they take a long time to germinate from seed. They are easiest to grow from transplants. And, like all vegetables, they love sunshine. So, pick a sunny spot in your garden, or place a container in full sun for your paprika pepper transplant to soak up.
Wait until the weather has officially warmed up outside to transplant paprika peppers. They are very cold sensitive, and exposure to temperatures of 50 degrees or less can be dooming. You may have to hold them indoors up to 2 weeks after you would typically put your tomatoes and other veggie transplants out. For those 2 weeks, harden off your paprika pepper plant to make the transition less of a shock.
If your young transplants have flowers or small fruit already developing, pinch them off before you transplant to redirect the plant’s energy into growing roots and gaining strength.
Paprika peppers require a good quality, well draining soil that will hold moisture, but not wetness. These peppers are finicky about their water, so maintain a good, moist balance at all times. Provide a mulch to help preserve the balance, especially if you experience some really hot weather.
If you have used fertile soil to begin with, your paprika peppers should thrive without fertilizer through the season.
Harvesting and Drying Paprika Peppers
Paprika peppers can be harvested when they turn completely solid in color. They do vary in color, so know what color your ripe paprika should be. The paprika’s coloring is related to its flavor. Paprika peppers that are red are usually the sweetest, whereas the brown or golden-yellow paprika peppers are the hottest. That pattern follows with ground paprika as well, so next time you are browsing the spice aisle, you will be able to decipher your paprikas!
You can skip the spice aisle and grind your own paprika spice by drying your own homegrown paprika peppers. Dry your peppers the old-fashioned way by hanging them on a string outside until all of the moisture is gone. Or lay them flat on a cookie sheet and turn them often. When your peppers are dry and crumbly, put them in a coffee grinder until the peppers are ground down to a course powder.
The flavor of paprika is activated when heated, so use it to decorate your cold deviled eggs and salads, but don’t stop there. Use your freshly ground spice to amp up the flavor of your soups, meats, potatoes, and pasta dishes.
Paprika Pepper Pests and Problems
Since they are grown as annuals throughout the U.S., paprika pepper plants are not especially prone to diseases or pests as long as proper planting and techniques are followed closely. Overall, paprika peppers are pretty easy to grow.
Keep an eye out for typical pests and garden diseases that can hit your pepper plants. Common pepper plant pests and problems are aphids, blossom end rot, and leaf blights. Check out the article below from Utah State University Cooperative Extension for more details on how to identify the symptoms of pepper plant problems.
Paprika Pepper Varieties to Consider
‘Alma’ is a beautiful, round, red paprika pepper known for its hint of heat. This one is good for eating fresh from the garden or for preserving for spice.
‘Kalosca’ is a thin walled sweet paprika pepper from Hungary that is perfect for drying and grinding. Your goulash and chicken paprikash will never taste better.
Want to learn more about growing paprika peppers?
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of seelensturm
For a look at what your dried paprika peppers should look like and how to grind them up, check out: