CSA Week Fifteen: Sweet Peppers

prod000839_lgSweet bell peppers are another vegetable in the nightshade family of plants, along with our other peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes.   Bell Peppers are perhaps the most common pepper we see in the grocery store, piled high in the summertime, but truthfully, the green bell peppers you purchase in the grocery may actually be immature, non-ripe versions of the other color varieties. Not all bell peppers start off green, however, nor do green bell peppers always mature into other basic colors.  We can find a variety in our CSA bundles and the joy is whereas in the grocery you usually pay a higher price for the yellow and red peppers, at our wonderful farm, you do not!!

Bell peppers have been cultivated for more than 9000 years, with the earliest cultivation having taken place in South and Central America. While the name “pepper” was given to this food by European colonizers of North America who first came across it in the 1500-1600’s and then transported it back to Europe, the original name for this food in Spanish was pimiento, you know like those red centers in the jars of olives…peppers.

Because bell peppers can be grown in a variety of climates and are popular in various cuisines they are grown throughout the world, but within the U.S., California and Florida are the largest bell pepper-producing states. (In terms of chili pepper production, however, New Mexico currently stands in first place.) . The average U.S. adult consumes about 16 pounds of peppers per year, including almost 9.5 pounds of bell peppers.

Bell peppers can be eaten at any stage of development. However, recent research has shown that the vitamin C and carotenoid content of bell peppers tends to increase while the pepper is reaching its optimal ripeness. Bell peppers are also typically more flavorful when optimally ripe.  I talked before about our jalapenos being high on the Scoville  hotness scale, well our lovely sweet bell peppers have zero units, so if the jalapenos were too hot for you, here is a pepper for you (and me)!

And a cool FYI :  Paprika is a dried powdered form of bell pepper, and even though we are used to seeing red paprika in the spice section of the grocery, a paprika can be made from any color of bell pepper and it will end up being that same color once dried and ground into powder.

Bell peppers are an outstanding source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. These phytonutrients include flavonoids and hydroxycinnamic acids, but the hallmark phytonutrient group found in bell peppers is the carotenoid family, with more than 30 different carotenoids being provided by this vegetable. Included in bell pepper carotenoids are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, and vitamin B6. They are a very good source of folate, molybdenum, vitamin E, dietary fiber, vitamin B2, pantothenic acid, niacin, and potassium. Additionally, they are a good source of vitamin K, manganese, vitamin B1, phosphorus, and magnesium.  Who knew all these great nutrients were stored in this humble summer vegetable?

PREP TIME: Unwashed sweet peppers stored in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator will keep for approximately 7-10 days. much longer than our recent friends the eggplant. Because bell peppers need to stay well hydrated and are very sensitive to moisture loss, I recommend that you include a damp cloth or paper towel in the vegetable compartment to help the peppers retain their moisture. Do not cut out the bell pepper stem prior to storage in the refrigerator. Bell peppers are especially sensitive to moisture loss through this stem (calyx) portion and are more susceptible to chilling injury if the stem is removed. Sweet peppers can be frozen without first being blanched. It is better to freeze them whole since there will be less exposure to air which can degrade both their nutrient content and flavor.  Yay for no blanching!!

ROASTING PEPPERS:  Put peppers under the broiler or on a grill and broil 2-3 minutes per side.  Rotate until the entire pepper is blistered and slightly charred.  Then quickly place in a paper bag for 10-20 minutes.  Peel charred skins off under cold water and cut into slices.

Corn and Pepper Salad

4 ears sweet corn
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons slivered basil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Husk corn and boil or grill until crisp-tender.  Cool and slice off the kernels.  Place corn in a bowl with sweet peppers, onions and basil.  Whisk balsamic vinegar and mustard in a small bowl, then slowly whisk in olive oil a little at a time.  Toss with the vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Stuffed Peppers

1 pound ground beef or sausage
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1 cup shredded cheese

Brown meat and onions together.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add tomatoes, water and uncooked rice.  Cover and simmer until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.  Add more water if needed.  Stuff peppers and sprinkle with cheese.  Place upright in a baking dish.  Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

MORE SWEET PEPPER RECIPES: Bell Pepper Egg In a Nest, Potato Hash with Bell Peppers and Onions, Bell Pepper Slaw, Greek Style Bell Pepper Salad, Easy Stuffed Bell Peppers, Marinated Roasted Red Bell Peppers, Roasted Garlic and Red Sweet Pepper Soup, Bell Pepper Scoops, Mini Frittatas with Spinach and Red Pepper


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