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The Globe and Mail

A spicy challenge: Hungarians strive to revive the paprika business

After decades of neglect and despite fierce competition from countries including Brazil, Serbia and China, Hungarian are trying to put the country's once-booming paprika business back on the map

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Paprika maker Peter Szabo shows his pepper-stained gloves in Batya, 140 kilometres south of Budapest. Mr. Szabo, 41, left a lucrative telecommunications job in Britain, sold his property and returned to Batya to grow red peppers.

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A combination of four photographs shows the stages of paprika preparation. Freshly picked peppers (top left), dried peppers (top right), coarsely ground peppers (bottom left) and finely ground peppers (bottom right).

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Women pick red peppers in a field near Batya. In Communist times, every family in Batya had a paprika patch and some fields were as large as 50 hectares.

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Local policeman and paprika maker Zsolt Matos is seen between hanging bags of drying peppers. Mr. Matos says quality is the only weapon small farmers have against cheap imports of paprika that he says are often ground here and mislabelled as Hungarian.

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Bread and peppers are placed next to a bowl of Hungary's famous goulash soup, spiced up with paprika from Batya, a riverside village in the Hungarian flatlands south of Budapest.

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Paprika maker Zsolt Matos holds his daughter as they stand at a window between hanging tubes of drying peppers. He says ‘supermarket paprika contains stems, seeds, and is ground more coarsely. If you use fine stuff, the taste and the colour is more intense, and all of it diffuses into the food ... It's like tasting mediocre or fine wine. You will know the difference.’

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A pot of Hungary's famous goulash soup in Budapest is spiced up with paprika. Powdered paprika spice has long been a staple in Hungarian cooking.

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Paprika maker Peter Szabo pours a sack of dried peppers into a grinder. Mr. Szabo has invested everything he owns into custom-made machines, and uses methodical marketing, going after gourmets who value organic food and are willing to pay extra for it. Quality is the only way to survive, he says.

LASZLO BALOGH/REUTERS

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