Spain’s pimentón pepper is a foreign movie star among chiles here in the U.S. It’s not mainstream but it’s got a good following in its native country. Specifically, the La Vera valley wherein pimentón are grown and smoked into the spice we know as pimentón de la Vera.
In early March, farmers germinate the seeds and grow seedlings in greenhouses. They are transplanted to the fields in May. Some of the fields are so remote that they are not accessible to tractors and other farm equipment, so farmers use mule labor to prepare the fields, and ride mules to the fields to remove weeds by hand. In all the fields, the crop is picked by hand in October when all the pods are bright red but still pliable. In eastern Spain, where it is drier, the pods can be dried in the sun. But in Extremadura, fall rains raise the humidity to the level where the pods would rot or mold. So in the La Vera valley, they are placed in burlap sacks and then loaded on flatbed trucks that haul them to the drying buildings.
The majority of the pimentón goes to the sausage factories, where it is used to spice up, flavor, and brighten up the famous Spanish chorizo. But it is also packed in tins for the consumer market. There are three varieties of pimentón–sweet (dulce), hot (picante), and bittersweet (agridulce). If you want to know more, check out this excellent story complete with recipes on our sister site.
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