Given the vast array of varieties as well as their versatility, peppers just might be considered the little black dress of cooking….they go with almost anything. From the mild green bell pepper to the sweet red bell to the oh-so-very-hot haberneros, this multipurpose non-veggie is this week’s celebrated food item. Yes, I said non-veggie. According to the website, servingjoy.com, because peppers have seeds and come from flowering plants, they are actually a fruit. Though bell peppers come in an assortment of colors, including black, brown, and dark purple, they all come from the same plant. While green bell peppers are the most familiar, red, orange, and yellow bell peppers are merely the riper versions of the green pepper. Colchester Neighborhood Farm is currently harvesting a number of different peppers that will perk up the flavor in any recipe while providing a pop of color that will make the dish as beautiful to look at as it is delicious to eat. Here are some other fun facts about this member of the Capsicum family.
- Despite the similarity in name, the bell pepper is not related to the plant that produces the popular kitchen condiment, black pepper.
- Unlike other members of the Capsicum family, bell peppers do not contain capsaicin, the compound responsible for the spicier version of peppers.
- As bell peppers mature, their sugar and nutritional content also increase. Although green peppers might be crunchier, you can make your dishes sweeter and healthier if you use the brighter-colored red bell pepper. In addition to providing more Vitamins A and C, this version contain the antioxidant lycopene, a nutrient not found in the green bell pepper.
- Move over orange juice…the bell pepper tops the list of foods with the highest levels of Vitamin C. A large red pepper provides more than 300% of your daily requirement of this essential vitamin and three times more vitamin C than an orange.
- To get the most nutritional value from peppers, it is best to eat them raw, since heat decreases their nutritional levels. If you do cook them, do so for a short period of time.
- Does the second bite of a chili pepper seem hotter than the first? That may be because you are getting closer to the stem. Some people believe the seeds are the spiciest part, but it’s actually the flesh near them that sets your tongue on fire. According to the website, mentalfloss.com, the part of the pepper closest to the stem is usually the hotter part because it has the highest concentration of capsaicin, which is responsible for causing irritation to the skin and that distinct burning pain on your tongue.
- Although mammals react to that capsaicin in hot peppers, birds are completely immune to its effects. And because of this, birds are largely responsible for helping to spread while wild peppers, by eating them and excreting the seeds.
- The measurement for determining and ranking the hotness level of a pepper is called the Scoville scale, named after pharmacist Wilbur Soville. Mild bell peppers fall within 1 to 100 SHU (Scoville Heat Units) while their hotter counterparts, such as cayenne fall at 30,000 to 50,000 SHU. The spiciest pepper known to man is called the Carolina Reaper…it measures 2.2 million SHU on the scale. That is one hot pepper!
Beyond providing color, flavor, and nutritional value to a recipe, some suggest that the heat in hot peppers increase metabolism thereby promoting weight loss. In recognition of this multi-talented fruit, we celebrate all peppers….both hot and sweet…. and encourage you to do the same by stopping in at Colchester Neighborhood Farm to purchase some freshly harvested, organically grown members of the Capsicum family.