Capsicum in Hungary: Production regions, cultivars, growing and processing technology

Climate of Hungary

Hungary is located on the north latitude 46°—48°. It means Hungary is on the northern border of the paprika growing area. The vegetation period is relatively short. Late spring frost may occur between 15—20 April. In some cases the first autumn frost may come at the end of September, but definitely in the middle of October.

Almost the whole area of the country is suitable for paprika growing given its temperature, precipitation and sunshine-hours. There are no striking differences in climate from region to region, although the sunshine-hours are the highest on the southeast part, and the precipitation is the least (about 2,000 hours and 500 mm per annum, respectively), while the sunshine-hours are less and the precipitation is more (about 1,800 hours and 700—800 mm per annum) on the western part of the country.

Production regions

Sweet Capsicum

Sweet Capsicum can be grown in any Hungarian region except along the western border of the country where the precipitation is higher and the temperature is lower than the average. Only 8—10% of the country’s soil and climate conditions are unsuitable for growing sweet Capsicum. Nevertheless, as traditional growing regions evolved, immigrant Bulgarian market gardeners settled at the southern part of the country and started vegetable production. Observing the Bulgarians’ success of production and commercialisation of sweet Capsicum, the Hungarians became involved as well. Production regions were established first in the country’s southetn warmer counties (Bacs-Kiskun, Bekes, Csongrad), which were notable for their easily warming rich sandy humus soil and good water management (county of Jaszsag, Pest). Production was also established on flood plains in the middle of the country, where the soil was of good quality clay. New growing regions developed in the twentieth century (Nyirseg, Hajdusag). Sweet Capsicum requires soils with 2-4% humus content with 6.8-8.5 pH. Rainfall should be around 500-600 mm per annum; 50% of that is needed during the vegetation period. This is a very important aspect of sweet Capsicum cultivation, that the water demand of sweet Capsicum is higher than that of condiment paprika.

Condiment paprika

Two important growing regions became established in Hungary by the end of the nineteenth century, namely Szeged and Kalocsa. These regions produce the bulk of the Hungarian paprika even today, in spite of the fact that in the last decades people started to grow this crop in the region of Mezohek, and even in the region of Boldog, located in the north of Hungary.

The soil types in the region of Szeged depend on the location: it is mainly medium-heavy, the sub-soil is salty on of the chernozem type. There are also flood-plains near where the rivers Tisza and Maros join. However, in a significant part of the region we can find lighter, sandy loam. These soils have inadequate water management with less humus, however, the cultivation is easier and the soil warms up faster. At the same time, the quality of the condiment paprika is lower than that obtained from the heavier soils. These lighter soils are suitable for intensive sweet Capsicum production under controlled conditions. In the region of Kalocsa the soil is mostly heavy, with relatively low humus content on the former flood plains of the Danube river.

Cultivar types

Sweet Capsicum cultivars

The sweet Capsicum cultivars in Hungary changed a lot during the last centuries, especially during the last 50—60 years. In the previous centuries the seed was handed down from father to son and the growers passed the seed on to each other. The seeds of the best and earliest fruits were always kept for further sowing. It can be assumed that on many occasions spontaneous pollination or mutation created new types or varieties. Breeding techniques applying genetics goes back only to the last 50—60 years in Hungary. The first sweet Capsicum cultivar which received State registration was “Cecei sweet 3” bred by Angeli (1958). He selected this from a pungent white type and created a non-pungent cultivar. With his work, an active and efficient Capsicum improvement started and, consequently, the Hungarian sweet Capsicum types and an assortment of cultivars were continuously increased and spread all over the world. The production of sweet Capsicum hybrid seed cultivars was initiated in Hungary in the middle of the 1960s (). Breeding work was conducted by the state-owned Vegetable Crop Research Institute and its predecessors, and by the Horticulture Departments of Universities until the mid-80s. Since then, several private breeders’ cultivars received Plant Variety Protection. All the cultivars grown belong to the species of Capsicum annuum L.

According to the National Institute for Agricultural Quality Control sweet Capsicum cultivars/varieties are categorised by the following groupings:

White fruit, indeterminate
without pungency white fruit, determinate
without pungency
pale green fruit, indeterminate
without pungency hornshaped, indeterminate
without pungency pointed, hot, indeterminate pointed, hot, determinate tomato-shaped, indeterminate
without pungency California Wonder type
without pungency other
without pungency

Approximately 100 cultivars were registered in the National list of Varieties in 2000. The size of this book does not allow a description of all types, so only the most important ones are mentioned.

One of the most important traits of sweet Capsicum cultivation is the sensitivity to lack of light. This characteristic is important for determining whether the cultivar can be force-grown or not. This means determining whether the cultivar may be grown only in the field or whether its production is economical under green house conditions out-of-season, as well.

1 Ciklon F1 — indeterminate, white fruit ripening to red, sweet, conical, upright fruit, for all production systems. Fruits are 12—15 cm long and 5—6 cm in diameter. Yield is 8-15kg/m2 depending on the production technology. It contains Tm2 resistance. Under local light conditions, sowing is done at the end of September, and the first 2 cm long fruits appears after a vegetation period of 125—130 days. This can decrease by 50% under more intense light conditions.

2 Taltos — white fruit turning to red, indeterminate, sweet, conical, blunt, pendulous fruits, grown in the field. Fruits are 10—15 cm long and 5—6 cm in diameter. Potential yield is 30-35 tons/ha.

3 “Pungent apple” — white fruit turning to red, indeterminate, pungent, apple-shaped upright fruit, grown in the field. It is mainly used by the canning industry (to pickle). Fruits are 6-7 cm in diameter and 4—5 cm long. Potential yield is 18-25 tons/ha.

4 Feherozon – white fruit turning red, determinate, without pungency, upright fruits, grown in the field and also under green house conditions. Fruits are 12—15 cm long and 5—6 cm in diameter. Yield in the green house is 6-8 kg/m2 and in the field is 25-35 tons/ha.

5 Rapires Fl – pale green turning red, indeterminate, pungent, long, conical, pendulous fruits. It can be grown in any type of controlled facilities. Fruits are 15-20 cm long and 3-4cm in diameter. It contains Tm2 resistance. Yield depends on the technology 7-8kg/m2.

6 Tomato shaped green — dark green ripening to red, indeterminate, sweet, flat, round, seamed, pendulous fruits. Fruits are 8—12 cm in diameter and 3—5 cm high. The potential yield of fully ripe fruits is 18-20 tons/ha.

Paprika varieties

The Hungarian condiment paprika’s cultivation period is short, there are only 5—5y months available for the vegetation period. In spite of the short vegetation period, the quality of the harvested crop is excellent in most years. The high pigment content and the high dry matter guarantees a very good base material for milling. The Hungarian varieties’ yield can be up to 50% more, with improved attributes, by cultivating them in areas where the vegetation period is longer. This is based on the Hungarian—Spanish (), the Hungarian-Portuguese and the Hungarian—Australian () cooperative experiments. The full genetic potential of the Hungarian cultivars is limited by the climatic limitations. Between 1993 and 2000 the condiment paprika production area was between 3,000 and 6,500 ha and the raw paprika production was between 26,000 and 65,000 tons. The size of the official growing land was 3,000-6,500 ha in 1993—2000 and the amount of the raw production was between 26,000 and 65,000 tonnes. Consequently, the quantity of the milled product varied between 5,000 and 9,400 tonnes.

All of the condiment paprika cultivars grown in Hungary were bred in Hungary. They belong to Capsicum annuum L. covar. longum by botanical classification. There are two exceptions (cv. Kalocsai A cherry type, cv. Kalocsai M cherry type). Regarding the growth habit, they are continuous, semi-determinate and determinate. There are two types of orientation of the fruits: erect and pendulous. The categories are indicated below and the pungency is confirmed in brackets:

1 Varieties of continuous growth habit, pendulous fruits: Szegedi 20, Szegedi 80, Szegedi 57-13, Remeny, Karmin, Szegedi 178 (pungent), Szegedi 179 (pungent), Szegedi F-03 (pungent), Kalocsai 50, Kalocsai 90, Kalocsai V-2 (pungent), Kalocsai E-15, Csardas, Folklor;

2 Varieties of continuous growth habit, erect fruits: Kalocsai 57—231;

3 Varieties of semi-determinate growth habit, pendulous fruits: Kalocsai 801, Kalocsai 702, Zuhatag;

4 Varieties of semi-determinate growth habit, erect fruits: Kalocsai M 622, Rubin;

5 Varieties of determinate growth habit, erect fruits: Kalocsai D 601, Kalocsai D 621 (pungent);

6 The cherry type paprika is classified as paprika, but it differs botanically from the rest. They are Capsicum annuum covar. cerasiforme and not longum. They are pungent, their importance is found in gastronomy. If green fruit is harvested it can be pickled or made into salad. When the ripe fruits are harvested they can be used for hot sauce or dried spice (not milled) flakes. The two cherry cultivars that differ in fruit size and growth habit are Kalocsai M and Kalocsai A.

A detailed description of the most typical cultivars of each category is given here.

1 Cultivar of continuous growth habit and, pendulous fruits: Szegedi 80 a sweet cultivar. The fruits are 12—14 cm long, dark red when ripe, pigment content is 8.0—10.0 g/kg after post-ripening treatment. The solids content at picking is 20%. Its yield potential under intensive conditions is 20-25 tons/ha. It has a reasonable tolerance to diseases and can be transplanted or directly seeded. Due to an early ripeness a reasonable yield can be relied upon before the first frosts. The Szegedi F-03 is the same type but with pungency ().

2 Cultivar of continuous growth habit and erect fruits: Kalocsai 57—231, a sweet variety. The bush is 45-55 cm high, its fruits are scattered and 10-14 cm long, slightly bent. They are of fire red color, or dark red after post-ripening treatment. Its main value lies in its good pigment (8—9 g/kg) and solids content. It is a mid-early maturing variety. Its yield potential is 15—16 tons/ha. It can be both transplanted or directly seeded. It has a good tolerance to diseases.

3 Cultivar of semi-determinate growth habit, with pendulous fruits: Kalocsai 801, a sweet variety. It has a loose spreading foliage. The plant is 40—45 cm high. The fruits are on short peduncles and can be easily picked by hand, they are 10—12 cm long weighing 22—28 g. They are straight, gradually tapering towards a pointed tip, and the color is dark red when ripe. Their pigment content at picking is 6.0-7.0 g/kg, going up to 8.0—9.0 g/kg after post-harvest ripening. The dry matter content is 18% when ripe. It is an early, intensive variety bringing a high yield as an exchange for watering and good nutriment supply. Its potential harvest is 20—22 tons/ha and has a high field tolerance to viral diseases. 4 Cultivar of semi-determinate growth habit with erect fruits: Kalocsai M 622, a sweet cultivar. The bush is 35—45 cm high with sparse foliage, and has a rigid stem with short intern-odes. Leaves are leathery and thick, so it has a good field resistance to fungal infections. The fruit is 10-15 cm long, gradually tapering towards a pointed tip, and is dark red when ripe. The pigment content at picking is 6.0—8.0 g/kg, increasing to 9-0—12.0 g/kg after post-harvest ripening. If transplanted, the entire crop can be harvested at the same time due to its short growing season and early, uniform ripening. It is primarily directly seeded. It is the most widely spread cultivar in the Kalocsa region. It requires intensive agronomic conditions, but the compensation is a high yield. Its yield potential is 20—25 tons/ha. It also has a high tolerance to diseases, which is the basis of secure production (). Cultivar of determinate growth habit and erect fruits: Kalocsai D 601, a sweet variety with erect fruits appearing in bunches on the stem. The bush is 30—35 cm high and the fruit bunches raise above the foliage and ripen uniformly. Fruits are 10-12 cm long, slightly bent, pointed and ripen to a deep red color. It contains 6.0—7.0g/kg pigment at picking and 8.0—9.0g/kg after ripening. The dry matter content is above average. It has a short growing season and early, uniform ripening. It is primarily recommended for direct seeding. On a large scale it can be harvested by machinery in one operation. The yield potential is 15-16 tons/ha. It can be grown successfully under irrigation on a brown sandy soil with high organic content. Cherry type paprika: Kalocsai M cherry type. It is a cultivar of pendulous fruits and loose foliage. The bush is 40—60 cm high and of continuous growth. The fruit is 3—3.5 cm in diameter, slightly flat and globe shaped with a closed style point. Its surface is smooth and the cross-cut is oval. The color of the fruits is dark red when ripe. The average weight is 7—9/g. The dry matter content is 20—22% when ripe and the capsaicin content at picking is 120-140 mg/100 g. It has a good tolerance against viral diseases. It has a mid-early, continuous ripening and a good yield. It is primarily recommended for transplanting and requires intensive growing conditions. It needs a soil rich in organic matter that can be easily warmed up ().

Capsicum in Hungary: Processing Technology


Selections from the book: “Capsicum. The genus Capsicum”. Edited by Amit Krishna De. Series: “Medicinal and Aromatic Plants — Industrial Profiles”. 2003.