Wednesday, 20 October 2010
It's long been my ambition to grow my own paprika peppers, since there is probably no seasoning I use as much as sweet Hungarian paprika. I tried growing 2 varieties this summer; Alma, a heritage Hungarian variety, and Conquistador, a Spanish variety. I'll give Conquistador another try as I crowded it and it acquired a virus, but it really didn't produce anything much for me this year.
Alma, on the other hand, which was also crowded and exposed to the virus, did very well indeed. The plants were compact, not reaching above 2 feet in height, and absolutely loaded with peppers. The fruits are round, and from a slight distance easily mistaken for tomatoes, although the thick stems and hexagonal stem base give them away. They have thick, juicy walls and are a sweet, mild pepper. Mind you I've seen mention by a few people that they can be unexpectedly hot. I know my fingers were stinging after the last batch I cut up.
They are a fairly early pepper, ready in 70 to 80 days from transplant. We had an early frost here, so I have pulled the plants and brought the unripe ones in to finish ripening. They do continue to ripen very well off the plant. A few have developed bad spots, but it also seems to take some time for the bad spots to affect the entire pepper. I just have to keep an eye on them.
The virus, by the way, was probably mild mottle virus. It came into the garden on one of a few pepper plants we bought on sale from a garden centre to fill in a some bare spots once our seedlings were planted. It was quite interesting, in a nasty sort of way, to watch it spread out from the original infected plant like a ripple in a pond when a stone is thrown in. The Alma peppers were further away from patient #1 than the Conquistador, but they were somewhat affected. I think they had fairly good resistance though; there was only a little leaf-twisting and very few of the peppers developed the brown scabby netting that appeared on other peppers nearby. And I doubt pepper formation was affected as the plant was absolutely smothered in peppers.
Like most peppers, Alma likes hot weather and a steady, moderate amount of water, and needs decent soil fertility. We planted them out June 1st to make sure the soil was good and warm. I would describe them as a somewhat determinate pepper: we pulled all the peppers off in the course of 3 weeks to a month. They are quite tolerant of cool nights - they were one of the last pepper plants to succumb to the cold for us. I understand they can be susceptible to early blight though.
I have dried most of my peppers but they are excellent for fresh eating and cooking, and it's also traditional to pickle them. They would make a very good stuffed pepper. In spite of the large numbers produced by each plant I am left feeling like I don't have nearly enough, and I'm going to plant quite a few more next year.