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PAPRIKA ( Capsicum annuum L. )
Names in Other Languages:

English Bell pepper, Pod pepper, Sweet pepper
French Piment annuel, Piment doux, Paprika de Hongrie, Piment doux d’Espagne
German Paprika
Spanish Paprika, Pimiento dulce, Pimiento morrón, Pimentón
Italian Peperone, Paprica
Turkish Kırmızı biber, Pul biber
Japanese バンショウ Banshō

FAMILY: Solanaceae

ORIGIN:   : Sweet peppers come originally from South and Central America. Different varieties of bell peppers have been cultivated in America, Brazil and Mexico. Germany, France, Turkey, Spain, Romania, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Netherlands Kenya, Senegal, Zambia, Ethiopia, Morocco and Israel are the countries which bell peppers have been cultivated mostly.


GENERAL DESCRIPTION:

Paprika is a fine powder ground from certain varieties of Capsicum annuum which vary in size and shape. They may be small and round or pointed and cone shaped. They are larger and milder than chilli peppers. Paprika is produces from peppers ripened to redness, sometimes called ‘pimento’. The powder can vary in colour from bright red to rusty brown.

The various varieties of sweet pepper differ greatly in color, shape and size. Sweet peppers are often green or red in color, but sometimes also yellow, white, purple or black.

Green and red sweet peppers are of one and the same variety, the difference in color arising simply from different harvest times. Green sweet peppers are not fully mature and, although they continue to ripen during storage and do turn red, they never reach such an intense shade as sweet peppers which have been left to mature fully on the plant.

The inside of a sweet pepper is hollow and subdivided by partitions, to which the whitish seeds are attached. The outside of the sweet pepper comprises a very shiny skin

USEFUL PARTS:

Berry fruits. Removal of seeds and veins results in a less pungent and more brightly coloured product.

SENSORY PROPERTIES: Sweet and aromatic.

MAIN CONSTITUENTS:

The pungent principle, capsaicin, is contained only in small amounts, as low as 0.001 to 0.005% in mild and 0.1% in hot cultivars Apart from capsaicin, the taste of paprika is mostly due to essential oil 1%; with long-chain aliphatic hydrocarbons, fatty acids and their methyl esters); paprika scent is mostly due to a range of alkylmethoxypyrazines (e.g., 3-isobutyl 2-methoxy pyrazine, earthy flavour). Ripe paprika contains up to 6% sugar.


Furthermore, paprika contains sizable amounts (0.1%) of vitamin C; this substance was first isolated from ripe paprika pods by the Hungarian chemist Albert Szent-György, who later won the Nobel Prize for this work.

Paprikas derive their colour in the ripe state mainly from carotenoid pigments, which range from bright red (capsanthrine, capsorubin and more) to yellow (cucubitene); total carotenoid content in dried paprika is 0.1 to 0.5%.

Chile cultivars which produce yellow but no or little red pigments appear yellow to orange when ripe. A small number of cultivars does not produce significant amounts of carotenoids; when chlorophyll levels decrease in the last stages of ripening, these chiles develop a pale hue often referred to as white. Due to small amounts of chlorophyll and/or yellow carotenoids, the white is, however, more precisely described as a pale greenish-yellow.

Some varieties of paprika contain pigments of anthocyanin type and develop dark purple, aubergine-coloured or almost black pods; in the last stage of ripening, however, the anthocyanins get decomposed, and the unusual darkness thus gives way to normal orange or red colours. The same anthocyanins cause the dark spots which are sometimes seen on unripe fruits or particularly the stems of paprika plants and which almost all paprika varieties can develop. In other Capsicum species, anthocyanin production is a rare phenomenon

Sweet peppers are distinguished by a high vitamin C content, which is higher than that of all other types of fruit and vegetable.[1]

MAIN USES IN FOOD PROCESSING:

Commercial food manufacturers use paprika in cheeses, processed meats, tomato sauces, chili powders and soups. Its main purpose is to add colour. If a food item is coloured red, orange or reddish brown and the label lists ‘Natural Colour’, it is likely paprika.

Paprika is often used as a garnish, spinkled on eggs, hors d’ouvres and salads for colour. It spices and colours cheeses and cheese spreads, and is used in marinades and smoked foods. It can be incorporated in the flour dusting for chicken and other meats. Many Spanish, Portuguese and Turkish recipes use paprika for soups, stews, casseroles and vegetables. In India paprika is sometimes used in tandoori chicken, to give the characteristic red colour. Paprika is an emulsifier, temporarily bonding with oil and vinegar to make a smooth mixture for a salad dressing.

MEDICINAL PROPERTIES:

Fresh red peppers have more than seven times as much vitamin C as oranges, but the very high heat of modern drying destroys much of the vitamin C in paprika. It is however, an excellent source of betacarotene, that the body converts to vitamin A.

--> Colorful Protection Against Free Radicals

Brightly colored bell peppers, whether green, red, orange or yellow, are rich sources of some of the best nutrients available.Paprika is a good source of vitamin C and vitamin A (through its concentration of carotenoids such as beta-carotene), two very powerful antioxidants. These antioxidants work together to effectively neutralize free radicals, which can travel through the body causing huge amounts of damage to cells. Free radicals are major players in the build up of cholesterol in the arteries that leads to atherosclerosis and heart disease, the nerve and blood vessel damage seen in diabetes, the cloudy lenses of cataracts, the joint pain and damage seen in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and the wheezing and airway tightening of asthma. By providing these two potent free radical destroyers, bell peppers may help prevent or reduce some of the symptoms of these conditions by shutting down the source of the problem.

--> Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Peppers also contain vitamin B6 and folic acid. These two B vitamins are very important for reducing high levels of homocysteine, a substance produced during the methylation cycle (an essential biochemical process in virtually every cell in the body). High homocysteine levels have been shown to cause damage to blood vessels and are associated with a greatly increased risk of heart attack and stroke. In addition to providing the vitamins that convert homocysteine into other beneficial molecules, bell peppers also provide fiber that can help lower high cholesterol levels, another risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

--> Promote Optimal Health

Red peppers are one of the few foods that contain lycopene, a carotenoid whose consumption has been inversely correlated with prostate cancer and cancers of the cervix, bladder and pancreas. Recent studies suggest that individuals whose diets are low in lycopene-rich foods are at greater risk for developing these types of cancers. The fiber found in peppers can help to reduce the amount of contact that colon cells have with cancer-causing toxins found in certain foods or produced by certain gut bacteria. In addition, consumption of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and folic acid, all found in bell peppers, is associated with a significantly reduced risk of colon cancer.

--> Seeing Red May Mean Better Eyesight

Bell peppers appear to have a protective effect against cataracts, possibly due to their vitamin C and beta-carotene content. Sweet peppers might the cataract operation risk. The red variety of bell peppers also supply the phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been found to protect against macular degeneration, the main cause of blindness in the elderly.

--> Protection against Rheumatoid Arthritis

Some studies suggests that high doses of supplemental vitamin C makes osteoarthritis, a type of degenerative arthritis that occurs with aging, worse in laboratory animals, another indicates that vitamin C-rich foods, such as bell and chili peppers, provide humans with protection against inflammatory polyarthritis, a form of rheumatoid arthritis involving two or more joints. [2]

REFERENCES and SOURCES:

[1]http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Caps_ann.html

[2]http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=50#historyuse

http://www.apinchof.com/paprika1019.html

http://www.theepicentre.com/Spices/paprika.html

http://www.floridata.com/ref/c/caps_spp.cfm

http://www.chilepepperinstitute.org/