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Peppers

Peppers

Peppers can be large or small, mild or hot, red or green and every hue in between. Peppers are an inventive way to fire up salads, sauces, hors d'oeuvres and main courses.

Nutritional Highlights

  • You might associate oranges and strawberries with vitamin C, but did you know that peppers are another excellent source of the nutrient, which helps keep cells healthy by protecting them from oxidation? Just one 30-gram green chili pepper has 140 percent of your Daily Value of vitamin C. That's as much as a cup of fresh whole strawberries!
  • Peppers also contain vitamin A, a nutrient that helps promote healthy eyes. One cup of chopped red bell pepper can deliver 50 percent of the vitamin A your body needs for the day.

History

Christopher Columbus was the first European to try peppers when he landed in the New World. He was also the first to feel the burn of a hot chili on his tongue! That sensation comes from capsaicin, a substance naturally found in many peppers. Did you know that dairy is a good remedy for an overheated mouth? When eating hot or medium-hot peppers, a bite of cheese or a swallow of cold milk is a great way to cool the fires.

Varieties

Peppers come in thousands of sizes, shapes, colors and levels of heat. The ones you'll be most likely to add to your recipes include:

  • Bell peppers: Also called sweet peppers, these big, hollow veggies have a mild taste, making them the perfect addition to meat courses, stir-fries and salads. You can also stuff them with cheese, herbs, rice and other veggies to make a delectable, international-style appetizer.
  • Green chilies: These long, thin peppers have a medium-hot kick that is instantly recognizable from your favorite Mexican meals.
  • Poblano peppers: Smaller and hotter than green chilies, poblanos look like little bell peppers but deliver a bit more spice.
  • Serrano peppers/jalapeño: These small, green varieties are very hot, so use them in moderation.
  • Habanero peppers: The hottest commercially available pepper around, the habanero is not for the faint of heart. While tasty, even a tiny sliver of these peppers can instantly clear your sinuses and leave your tongue feeling roasted.

When are Peppers in Season?

They mature during the hot summer months, but most peppers can be found in the grocery store at any time of year. Dried and canned varieties also make it easier to get your hands on these spicy ingredients whenever you like.

How to Choose Peppers

When picking a peck of peppers (ahem), try choosing fresh ones that have a green stem, firm, unblemished skin and a nice, bright color. For dried peppers, go for the glossy, unbroken ones.

How to Store Peppers

Fresh chili peppers get wrapped in a paper towel and put right into the vegetable drawer of your fridge. Bell peppers go in the same spot, usually sealed in a small plastic bag. Your dried peppers can be refrigerated too, since it will help them last longer.

How to Cook with Peppers

After washing a pepper under cold tap water, slice it in half and remove its seeds before chopping. This will decrease a pepper's heat. To make them even milder, soak peppers in salt water for an hour or two before cooking. And be careful not to touch your eyes or face while you're a pepper prepper, since the capsaicin on your fingers can irritate or burn your skin. When chopping hot chilies, consider wearing a pair of thin rubber gloves. You can also put the hand that touches the peppers in a plastic baggie, if you don’t have gloves.

Key Measurements

Peppers are mostly needed just one or two at a time. However, as a rule, larger peppers are usually milder, so you might end up using whole cups of the sweet or bell varieties.

Substitutions

It's hard to get that spicy sensation from any other veggie, but if your peppers are too hot, try swapping them out for milder varieties like green chilies, sweet banana peppers or bell peppers.

Peppers in Recipes

This Green Bean and Red Peppers Salad is quick, crunchy, mild and multicolored.

If you're up for a little adventure, pack jalapenos, corn and bulgur wheat into Stuffed Chili Peppers for a medium-hot course that leaves tongues a-tingle.

And for a brightly colored main course, this Three Pepper Pasta makes ample use of mild green, yellow and red bell peppers.

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