Bukovska Pepper

Vegetables - Macedonia

Bukovska peppers from which paprika is derived are characteristic of the region in southern Macedonia in terms of their sensory qualities and in terms of their drying and further processing methods. The production starts with sowing of seeds in sun-drenched soil in order to provide more heat. After germination the peppers are transplanted into previously prepared surfaces. The harvest of Bukovska peppers takes place throughout September and early October. Collected peppers are hung in arrays which are left under the eaves of houses or on balconies to dry. To dry properly, the peppers should be exposed to wind and heat, but no more that two to three hours of direct sunlight a day. They are dried in that way for a month, and then removed to a dry place. Red paprika is obtained after dried peppers are placed in batches and crushed in a wooden bowl called cutle. The crushed peppers are then ground on watermill stones, creating the mealy form of Bukovska red paprika. Paprika for direct consumption, bukovec, is produced with an extended process of crushing the dried peppers along with the seeds.

From earliest times there are records for cultivating Bukovska pepper and production of Bukovska paprika, which today is still found in the markets, but not in the same quantities as in the past. All areas nearby the village of Bukovo that could have been irrigated with the water from nearby rivers were covered with pepper production. It is estimated that in the late 19th century, the production of pepper in the village included an area of 30 hectares.

Compared to twenty years ago, when on the agricultural land near the village Bukovska peppers were grown without a problem, today cultivating them is more difficult. Residents attribute it to the reduced humidity of the air throughout the summers and smaller amounts of water in rivers, with a main consequence of not lower yields, but plant disease. Because the peppers are subject to disease frequently, these areas are now planted with smaller groves of peppers mainly for fresh consumption by the family. Only when there is a surplus of ripened peppers, are they dried and hung and later used for making Bukovska crushed paprika.