Michele Atkins

You can find bell peppers in almost all kitchens today. They are inexpensive, available all throughout the year and very versatile. Bell peppers are good in salads, pizzas, soups, sautés, casseroles, sandwiches or eaten fresh as a snack. They can be grilled, stuffed, canned or pickled. With the color, flavor and texture that it lends to dishes, the bell pepper has become a common feature in cuisines around the world.

Peppers are so versatile, colorful and fun. Bell peppers are also called sweet peppers. They are not hot in flavor and come in lots of colors.

Green peppers are the most common and less sweet than others.

Red peppers are fully ripe green peppers that turn red and are sweeter than green.

Yellow and orange peppers are bright in color with a mildly sweet, fruity flavor.

Green bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, containing more than twice as much vitamin C as an orange. Red bell peppers are also an excellent source of vitamins A and B6. Bell peppers provide folate, potassium and vitamin E in addition to other important nutrients.

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT PEPPERS

Peppers originated in Mexico. They were spread, most likely by birds, all over South and Central America.

Since bell peppers have seeds and come from flowering plants, they’re actually fruits, not vegetables. However, we prepare and serve them as veggies.

Bell peppers are related to tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants.

The pulpy white inner cavity of the bell pepper (usually cut off and discarded) is a rich source of flavonoids and can be eaten. This is an interesting bell pepper fact not known by many. However, discarding or keeping this section entirely depends on an individual’s preference.

Since high heat destroys some of the more delicate nutrients found in bell peppers, it is best to eat them raw for maximum health benefit. If you have to cook them, do so with low heat for a very short time.

Bell peppers can be yellow, green, orange, red, purple, white or brown.

If you are going to only use half of a bell pepper, cut it in half the short way and save the top half. The stem will keep it fresh longer.

Bell peppers can be eaten at any stage of development, however the vitamin C and carotenoid content of bell peppers increases with ripeness.

When purchasing peppers, choose bell peppers that are firm and heavy for their size with bright coloring and glossy skin. If stems are still attached, they should be firm and green. Fresh peppers are more available and tastier while in-season during the summer and early fall. Avoid peppers that have thin wrinkled skin or brown patches. Buy only what you will use within a week or plan to freeze extras for future use.

Keep bell peppers fresh by washing just before serving. After washing, cut off stems and cut peppers in half — lengthwise or crosswise. Remove seeds and the white membrane from the inside. Cut peppers into rings, strips or dice them into squares. Cut peppers can be stored (covered) for two days in the refrigerator. Whole peppers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Peppers can be frozen for longer storage. No blanching is needed. Place peppers in freezer bags or containers; seal and label with the date. Frozen peppers should be used within eight months for best quality.

 Bell Pepper Nachos

4 bell peppers (any color)

1 cup salsa

2 teaspoons seasoning (try a mixture-chili powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, pepper)

2 cups cooked chopped meat or beans

1 cup reduced fat shredded cheese

 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash bell peppers, remove seeds and cut into bite-sized pieces. Arrange pieces close together in a single layer on a large foil-lined baking sheet. In a medium bowl, combine salsa, seasonings and meat or beans.

Spoon the mixture evenly over pepper pieces then top with cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until peppers are heated through and cheese is melted.

Serve warm. For added flavor, top with chopped cilantro, green onions or black olives.

Bell Pepper Salad

4 bell peppers (try one of each color for a colorful salad)

1/2 medium onion

2-1/2 tablespoons vinegar

1 tablespoon oil

1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper

 

Wash bell peppers and remove tops and seeds. Cut into 1/4-inch thick strips. Peel onion and slice into thin strips. In a large mixing bowl, stir together vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Add bell pepper and onion and gently stir to coat.

Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. 

Try adding some hot pepper for more spice.

Roasted Bell Peppers

4 bell peppers

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

 

Preheat oven to 450°F. Wash peppers and remove tops and seeds. Cut peppers in half, rub with oil.

Place cut side up on rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Roast until peppers are tender and blistered in spots, 30-35 minutes.

 Peach Salsa

1 cup chopped peaches, canned or fresh (1-1/2 to 2 medium fresh)

1 large tomato, chopped

1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup chopped onion (1/2 medium onion)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

 

Combine peaches, tomato, bell pepper, onion and cilantro in large bowl. Add lime juice, salt and pepper, gently stir to mix. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. For extra flavor, add cayenne pepper or diced jalapeño.

 

 MICHELE ATKINS is the director for the Henry County Extension Service. Her email address is matkins1@utk.edu.

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