RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Tangy, crunchy bell peppers—also known as sweet peppers—come in a dazzling array of bright, shiny colors. But despite these varied hues, they’re all from the same species of plant, Capsicum annuum. Bell peppers normally become sweeter as they mature from unripe green to ripe shades of yellow, orange, red, brown, and even purple. Though these crisp, plump vegetables are available all year, they’re local, fresh, and abundant nationwide right now. So it’s a perfect time to try out some unusual, and unusually flavorful, bell pepper recipes.
When shopping for fresh peppers, choose firm, vividly colored specimens with smooth skin, fresh green stems, and no soft spots or blemishes. Unwashed, whole bell peppers can be stored in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for up to two weeks. To clean peppers, wash them under running water. If you buy waxed peppers, scrub them well to remove the wax. To prep peppers, use a paring knife to cut around the stem, then gently remove it. If you’re making stuffed peppers, leave them whole, but remove the core and seeds from the inner cavity. For other bell pepper recipes, cut the peppers in half to easily remove the core and seeds, and slice or chop as required.
As for nutrition, this vegetable is loaded—especially if you buy it ripe and brightly colored, not unripe and green. Bell peppers are an excellent source of the powerful antioxidant vitamins A and C, which work together to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals and protect vision. (Red peppers actually contain nearly three times the vitamin C of oranges.) Bell peppers also contain vitamin B6 and folic acid, two B vitamins that help lower your risk of heart attack and stroke by reducing high levels of homocysteine in the body. Research has also found that consuming foods rich in beta-cryptoxanthin, a carotenoid abundant in red bell peppers, may significantly lower lung cancer risk. Red bell peppers also supply the eyesight-preserving phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin.
If you’re not cooking with peppers from your own garden, try to find organic bell peppers. That’s because conventionally grown bell peppers are one of the most heavily sprayed foods, commonly treated with 39 different pesticides. In a recent survey, 68 percent of conventionally grown bell peppers contained high levels of chemical pesticide residues.
Filed Under: RECIPES
Published on: August 23, 2010