For Better Living: All About Peppers


Sandra Cain - Bladen County Cooperative Extension



Peppers are a vegetable used in a variety of dishes as seasoning, garnish, main dish, and relish. Peppers are na­tive to tropical America and were grown by Native Americans in North and South America over 2,000 years ago. Small hot peppers were discovered by Columbus in the West Indies.

Peppers come in a variety of shapes, colors, sweet­ness, and “hotness.” Some sweet pepper varieties are bell, pimiento, sweet banana, and sweet cherry. “Hot” varieties are cayenne, chili, jalapeño, Hungar­ian, Serrano, and some cherry varieties. In general, the smaller the size of the pepper, the hotter the pepper is. Peppers are available from mid-July through September.

Bell peppers (also called sweet peppers) can be green, red, or yellow. Green peppers are usually the least expensive. Hot peppers, on the other hand, come in over 200 varieties.

They are popular in ethnic cooking. Hot peppers are also high in vitamin C. Since they are used mostly to add spice to dishes, they are not eaten in large enough amounts to be a significant source of vitamin C.

Selection and Storage

Choose peppers that are firm, crisp, fresh, and brightly colored. They should be thick-fleshed. Avoid peppers with pale green skins and those that are overripe, bruised, blistered, or soft, which shows immaturity.

Store green peppers in the refrigerator crisper at 46–48 degrees F for no longer than 2 weeks. Some varieties of pepper will keep longer.

Nutrition

The “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” rec­ommend that adults need 2–2½ cups of a variety of vegetables daily for good nutrition. Peppers can help to meet these nutritional requirements. Bell peppers are an excellent source of Vitamin C and have antioxidants to prevent cancer and fight heart disease. Red, orange, and bright yellow peppers provide some Vitamin C and A. Peppers are high in fiber. One large green pepper has only 22 calories.

Safe Handling

To prevent cross-contamination, clean surfaces, utensils, and hands after touch­ing raw meat and poultry and before prepare fresh produce. To remove dirt, wash vegetables thoroughly in cold water. Drain and rinse several times with cold water. Do not use soap, detergent, or bleach as it can be absorbed into the vegetable. Lift vegetables from water to prevent re-depositing of dirt and residues. Use a soft brush on peppers if needed. To prepare, cut a thin slice from the stem end. Remove seeds and fibrous portion. Wash inside.

Sources: University of Vermont Cooperative Extension and University Of Ohio Cooperative Extension

Pickled Peppers

2 pounds Hungarian or banana peppers

2 pounds sweet peppers (in strips)

1 pound cherry peppers

1 Jalapeno per jar (if desired for hotness)

1 clove garlic per jar

6 cups vinegar

2 cups water

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pickling salt

1 tablespoon sugar, if desired

*Note: May use a variety of peppers to equal 5 pounds (4 quarts).

Yield: Makes 7 to 8 pints

Procedure: Wash peppers. Small peppers may be left whole with two small slits in each pepper. Core and cut large peppers into strips. Pack one clove garlic and a variety of peppers tightly into clean, hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Combine vinegar, water, salt and sugar. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Pour hot pickling solution over peppers, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Readjust headspace to 1/4 inch. Wipe jar rims. Add pre-treated lids and process in boiling water bath. For best flavor, store jars five to six weeks before opening.

Recommended process time for pickled peppers in a boiling water-bath canner. Pints : 15 minutes, Quarts 20 minutes.

Stuffed Peppers

Makes 8 servings

1/2 pound lean ground turkey

3 cups cooked brown rice

2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

1 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup chopped canned tomatoes, or more as needed

8 green peppers

1. In a large skillet, brown the turkey. Drain to remove some of the fat.

2. Add rice, cheese, oregano, garlic powder, and tomatoes.

3. Set stuffing aside in the refrigerator.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

5. Spray pan with non-stick cooking spray.

6. Cut green peppers in half lengthwise and remove membranes and seeds.

7. Drop halves into a large pot of boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes.

8. Drain.

9. Arrange peppers, cut-side up, in pan and fill with stuffing.

10. Bake 45 minutes, or until peppers are tender.

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Sandra Cain

Bladen County Cooperative Extension

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