Paprika from Almopia – a special local product.

Photo by Farm Bioma.

Article – research – photos: farm Bioma, Photorama Studio.

Scientific name: Capsicus annum L.
Family: Solanaceae
Paprika from Almopia. Synonyms: Bachovitiki pepper, Piperi Karatzovas, pepper from Aridaia.

General information about Paprika
The word paprika comes from Hungarian and specifically from a diminutive of the Serbian and Croatian word papar meaning pepper, which in turn derives from the Latin piper or Modern Greek word piperi. Paprika as well as other similar words like peperke, piperke and paparka are easy to come across in the Balkans.   
Apart from Greece, it is also produced in various places including Hungary, Serbia, Spain and some regions in the USA.

Historical Information.
It is a traditional pepper variety that has been cultivated for at least 100 years in the region of Almopia for the production of fresh and processed products.
From the beginning of the 20th century until the late 80’s, paprika from Almopia played a decisive role in the local economy. Small-scale processing units or agricultural cooperatives and later plants produced large quantities to meet the domestic and international market demands. Many hectares used to be cultivated in the wider area, especially in the villages of Promachi, Orma, Garefion, Loutraki and Vorino.
Farmers used to cultivate and save seeds for the following year. They implemented a traditional seed air-drying and smoking technique in purpose-built dry rooms, creating the paprika that would add flavour to their dishes throughout the year. Farmers would sell their production surplus to local traders and as a result paprika reached the Balkans and central Europe through trade roots. It ultimately became popular for its distinctive aroma. Before the Second World War, large quantities of paprika were brought to the East through the port of Thessaloniki.
After the war, the price of paprika went up to £1 per kilo.
The increasing value and ongoing demand of the product urged several businessmen back in the ‘60s and ‘70s to invest in its processing and packaging. Large plants were built, making effective use of the technology of the time and vertically integrating the process. Air-drying and grinding was no longer time consuming but quick and easy.

Photo by Farm Bioma.

In the beginning of the ‘80s the first signs of drop in demand started to appear. Businesses finding it hard to adapt to new circumstances, competition from neighbouring and eastern countries, local farmers turning to new cultivations and finally total deindustrialisation occurring in northern Greece during that period of time led to the depreciation of paprika from Almopia.   
In the last few years, young farmers in the region have tried to revive and cultivate again paprika from Almopia. Every October in Garefion village there is a local food and traditional dancing festival whereas the product has been on display again in industry fairs. 
  
Plant Description

They are of average height, resistant and very productive. The fruit is elongated, of medium size, fleshy and with rich flavour. For the production of paprika, fruits are harvested when fully ripened having a scarlet colour whereas for salads or cooking when they are dark green. 


Piperi Karatzovas dark green fruits. Photo by Farm Bioma.

Cultivation
The Almopia pepper is a traditional variety, meaning that a plant population has been developed in a specific region after long term natural and technical selection.
With the passing of time local varieties have adapted to environment conditions and are usually less demanding than hybrids on inputs (plant protection, nutrition etc).
The local variety of Almopia pepper has much less irrigation demands compared to those of this cultivation. Moreover, there is little or no demand on plant protection as it is pathogens and insect pests resistant.
Plant yield per 0.1 hectare is 2,000 to 2,500 plants.
Seedlings are prepared from the beginning of April and are transplanted into the field by the end of May beginning of June. Harvesting time starts early for fresh dark green peppers, after 60 to 70 days, whereas for the pepper to be fully ripen (dark red) it takes 70 to 80 days after transplanting.
Average production volume per 0.1 hectare reaches 700-1,500 kilos of fresh pepper. Yield depends on the farming method (conventional, organic) as well as how favourite the year may be for its cultivation.
It is mostly cultivated under open field conditions.

Processing
Processing for the production of grounded pepper (paprika) comes after harvesting.
Today, the process of air-drying and smoking of peppers usually happens traditionally in purpose-built rooms that used to be called ‘Ontar’.

After the traditional technique of air-drying and smoking, peppers are taken to the mill for grinding. Photo by Farm Bioma.


Having removed the non-commercial unnecessary plant parts, the grinding stage follows where peppers are taken to the mill. The process is repeated until the powder gets the desired texture and colour. The substance responsible for the colour of paprika is Zeaxanthin.
7 kilos of fresh processed pepper give us one kilo of paprika.

Paprika after being ground in a mill. Photo by Farm Bioma.

Use  
It is used as an ingredient in cooking, adding colour and flavour to many dishes of different gastronomic cultures throughout the world. It is mainly used, however, in Hungary, Spain, Greece, FYROM, Romania, Morocco, Turkey, Bulgaria and South Africa.
Used in soups and olive oil recipes, for shallow frying, marinades and sausages, paprika from Almopia can add distinctive flavour and aroma. 


Local producers of paprika from Almopia.
Paprika from Almopia (Mr. Pritskas Dimitrios) www.paprika-almopias.gr
Τel: (0030)2384075742,(0030)6977695234.
Smoked pepper from Almopia (Mr. Mpolkis Theodoros) www.smoked-pepper-hellas.com  Tel: (0030)6978379666.
Almopia (Mr. Tsiropoulos Georgios) www.almopia-food.gr
Τel: (0030)23840 21746, (0030)697 661 2323.
Almopia Gefsis (Mr. Emmanouilidis Georgios)
Τel: (0030)6983481595.
Athina’s sweets (Mrs. Makridou Athina) www.taglikatisathinas.gr  
Τel: (0030)2384021868

Σχόλια