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August 21st, 2017

People, pick a peck of peppers!

by Yael Ben-Chaim

Eat ‘em raw, grilled, sautéed, or freeze for later: no matter how you eat and prepare them, bell peppers are a must-have summer farmers market veggie…or, actually, fruit! Though typically thought of as a vegetable, bell peppers are technically classified as a fruit because they contain seeds and grow from a flowering plant. Bell peppers are in the Salicaceae or nightshade family, along with eggplants, tomatoes, and potatoes. Like all peppers, bell peppers are in the Capsicum genus of flowering plants; however, they are unique in that they do not contain capsaicin, the compound that gives other peppers their spicy bite. Bell peppers are readily available at Maryland farmers markets from July to early October.

Nutritional facts

Bell peppers are high in Vitamin C. Vitamin C can alleviate symptoms of the common cold. Bell peppers contain a whopping 82% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin C for men and nearly all of the RDA of Vitamin C for women, so  if you’re fighting a pesky summer cold, bell peppers may help cure what ails you! Red, yellow, and orange peppers carry an added benefit: they’re full of antioxidants, coming from the carotenoids that give peppers their beautiful colors.

Selection and Storage

 Selection:

Bell peppers should be shiny, firm, and brightly colored. You can find bell peppers in a variety of green, yellow, orange, and red shades. Don’t let red peppers with yellow spots, or yellow peppers with orange spots deter you- these multicolored beauties are still delicious! Avoid wrinkly, blemished, or dull-colored peppers, as these are signs that they have aged.

Storage:

Bell peppers should be stored in a dry area of the refrigerator for 4-5 days.

To extend the longevity of a pepper and enjoy it well into the winter months, try freezing it by following the steps below. When ready to eat, thaw and cook in your favorite pepper recipe. Frozen peppers do not taste great raw, but will cook as normal sautéed!

Freezing:

  • Slice peppers, removing all seeds.
  • Spread sliced peppers in a single layer on a cooking tray and freeze for an hour.
  • Remove peppers from cooking tray and place in airtight freezer bag.

Pairing and Preparation:

Bell peppers’ natural sweetness is enhanced by heat. Try roasting before use in soups or salads, or marinate roasted peppers in vinegar for a delicious side. Raw bell peppers add a great crunch to a salad, and are a great finger food accompanied by hummus or your favorite dip.

Recipe:

Balsamic Pepper Recipe from The Spruce

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1/2 – inch slices
  • 1 large orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1/2 – inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon

Preparation:

  1. In a large skillet, stir together the olive oil and peppers over medium heat.
  2. Sauté the peppers for 5-7 minutes, until they are tender but still firm.
  3. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, pepper, and salt; cook an addition 1 minute.

Photo Credit: Yuri Huta

About the Author Yael Ben-Chaim

Yael is a food-lover, interested in local food systems and farmers markets. Follow Yael's blog posts on farmer market produce, recipes, and nutrition information. Yael is an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Maryland Farmers Market Association and is developing a seasonal food education program for MDFMA.