Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A. They also contain small amounts of calcium, phosphorus, iron, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. Red bell peppers have double the vitamin C content (95 mg or 158% RDA per 1/2 cup raw) and additional vitamin A over green bell peppers.
All bell peppers (Capisicum annum L.) are green when they are young, and can ripen to a rainbow of colours such as red, yellow, and orange, even purple, brown, or black. Their colouring can be solid or variegated. They are perennial plants, but grow as annuals in temperate climates.
Red bell peppers are simply vine-ripened green bells that gain additional sweetness from their longer ripening period. Green bells are often the least expensive since can be harvested before they are ripe, so they take less time to produce, tend to last longer, and can better withstand transport.
In North America, the term "sweet pepper" encompasses a variety of mild peppers, including the best known - bell peppers, named for their bell-like shape. Other sweet pepper varieties include pimientos, bull's horn, Cubanelle and the sweet banana pepper. Sweet and chile peppers both belong to the Capsicum family.
Choose peppers that are firm and feel solid, with richly coloured, shiny skin and that are heavy for their size. Older peppers will be soft or limp, wrinkled or shrivelled, and may have soft or bruised spots on them, and these should be avoided.
Bell peppers are available year-round, with green pepper availability being the most constant.
Fresh bell peppers can be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to one week.
There are several ways to cut a pepper, depending on its intended use.
If you are planning to keep the stem portion as a cap or slice the pepper into rings, it is best to cut around the stem, shake out and discard the seeds, then peel away the white part of the ribs using a paring knife. If you are planning to cut the pepper into strips, for use in a stir fry or a veggie platter, you can cut the pepper in quarters, through the stem, using a larger knife. Then, using a paring knife, cut away the stem portion and the ribs of each quarter.
Even bell peppers, which are known for their sweetness, can have some heat in their ribs, so it is best to wash your hands well with soap after touching them, especially before touching your eyes.
Roasting: Roasting and peeling bell peppers involves placing them under the broiler, skin side up (or turning them often, if they are whole), until they blister, then scraping away the skin. Skin removal can be facilitated by letting the peppers "steam" themselves in a sealed baggie or in a dish with a tight fitting lid. You can also purchase jars of roasted red peppers, which are often packed either in oil or wine vinegar.
Bell peppers can be eaten raw, stir-fried, baked, grilled, or stewed. They make a sweet and colourful addition to pizza, anti-pasto and omelettes, and can be a main ingredient in a cold salad with olive oil and spices. They are processed into powders, sauces, and slasas.
Did You Know? Bell peppers are actually the fruit of the pepper plant, and are classified as berries. The pepper plant belongs to the Solanaceae family, which also includes tomatoes, gooseberries, eggplant, and potatoes.
The term "peperoni" (singular: "peperone") is Italian for bell pepper, whereas the spicy sausages North Americans know as pepperoni are referred to by Italians as "salamino piccante". Hot peppers are referred to as "peperoncini".
Healthy Ways to Enjoy Bell Peppers:
- Add bell pepper pieces to an omelette.
- Put bell pepper slices into a fritatta.
- Bell pepper slices, pieces or rings dress up any green salad.
- Add interest to any cold bean, grain or potato salad with pieces of bells.
- Roasted red peppers and goat's cheese on focaccia make a simple, yet elegant, sandwich.
- Add "confetti" to your rice dish: use small pieces of colourful peppers to add sweetness, colour, and texture to a side dish.
- Stir-fry bell peppers with your favourite veggies - their crisp sweetness goes nicely with a variety of sauces.
- Peppers grilled with a touch of olive oil make a simple and flavourful extra veggie side with any dinner.
- Raw peppers make a fun and dippable veggie in a kids' meal.
- Skewer generous chunks of bell peppers for sweet and tasty kabobs.
- Bell peppers make a sweet and colourful addition to raw veggie platters for dipping.
- Cut the tops off of colourful bell peppers and use them as serving bowls for dips and sauces. Wobbly peppers can be made to sit upright, slice a small amount from the bottom to even them out.
- Blend skinless roasted peppers into dips such as hummous and baba ganoush. Serve with flatbreads and crudités.
- Foodland Ontario - Greenhouse Peppers
- University of California, Davis, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Melissa's World Variety Produce
- Purdue University Horticulture
- University of Georgia Department of Horticulture