Paprika derives its origin in chile peppers native to the Americas, which were transported to Europe after Columbus' discovery of the New World. It was the Spaniards who first dried and ground up the spicy red peppers that they had begun to cultivate in their own country. In Spain, the peppers lost their fiery heat, and became a much milder spice that suited many traditional dishes. The new spice quickly spread throughout the rest of Europe, because of its ability to adapt to its new environment, and because it was less expensive than the popular Asian spices at the time. Remember that black pepper used to be a spice only affordable by the wealthy in medieval Europe. Today paprika is quite common in Hungarian, Balkan, and Turkish cooking, even more so than black pepper.
Spanish cuisine employs paprika of three categories: sweet, bittersweet, and hot. The best paprika comes from La Vera, which is in the southwestern province of Extremadura. Hungarian cooking incorporates 6 varieties of paprika, which are categorized according to their strength and heat. The differences in the types of paprikas are made by how much of the seeds and veins are incorporated with the ground- up pepper.
Paprika is a great spice to add to hummus and other dishes that do well with a hit of smokiness. It is also a great spice to mingle with cumin, parsley, garlic, and olive oil.
Using paprika is an easy way to add natural red color to food or oil.