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Shuli's Mom and the Paprika Farm
- Mar, 17 , 22
- Shawna Shanahan
In 1949, Shuli's mother and her family emigrated from Yemen to Israel, where they settled in the Negev desert in the southern part of the country. Her history with paprika peppers started about 30 years ago, when they were farmers growing vegetables and running a dairy farm.
Shuli's father used to go to the spice market on a regular basis to buy spices for his wife. When he returned with his purchases, they would often complain about the quality. One day when Shuli's dad came home from the spice market, he informed his wife that they were going to open a spice shop! Soon afterward they opened their very own spice store which they proudly called Tavlinai Ha Bayeit (Home Spice).
Shuli's mother began searching around for quality sources of whole spices, which she would then grind on a daily basis. Yet, the paprika peppers she bought were still not up to the standard of quality she was looking for. So she decided to start growing her own peppers.
At first she planted a small quantity — about one acre. Soon after that, the quality paprika she produced became so popular she had to plant more, up to 10 acres. The paprika farm included the whole family, and along with her husband, the children also helped out. Right after school they would have to do weeding, planting, harvesting or grinding chores. Each child had his or her daily tasks to finish before they could go out and play.
What was the secret to the quality of her peppers? She says the weather of the desert helped the pepper to ripen well. There is no humidity in the desert, therefore they had fewer diseases on the plants. After harvest, the peppers were dried in a shaded area to prevent sun damage. When it came to processing the peppers, she began with a small grinder but soon she went on to purchase her first industrial grinder, enabling her to produce large quantities of paprika powder.
Being a conscientious provider of paprika, Shuli's mom was always looking for ways to improve on her product. She had begun to select the best seeds from the best quality peppers. Then she would go to her neighbor with the seeds in hand, and he would help her germinate them into seedlings for planting. Each year on the farm the quality of the peppers improved because Shuli's mom carried a passion for growing and producing the best paprika peppers possible.
Since most of her customers were North Africans and Yemenis who lived in nearby towns, she would make a popular Yemeni hot paste called zhug which is used as a condiment, and her customers loved her for it. Then her Moroccan customers asked her to make a harissa paste so they could buy everything they needed all in one place. Harissa calls for hotter peppers, so she began experimenting with hot paprika. The end result was a delicious formula that her North African customers happily approved.
Shuli's mom is retired now, but still has the farm that she leases to other farmers who grow vegetables. Shuli's brother, Yoav, has taken over the spice shop and still continues the tradition of making spices the way his mother taught him.
Shuli has many wonderful memories of his mother, and of growing up on the farm, There are a few things that stay with him to this very day and that is the caring way his mother treated her customers with helpfulness and friendliness, and especially the integrity in her products. She had made so many wonderful friends over the years, that many come to visit her at her home. Or whenever she goes to the spice shop (which is often) she will see someone she knows.