At the Market: Peppers

Source: Nancy Gordon

Bell Peppers are considered by many to be some of nature’s most elegant sculptures, yet they also add flavor, texture, and nutrients to many of your summertime dishes.

The peak season in the U.S. is between July and November. These incredibly versatile and forgiving vegetables adapt well to being stuffed, sliced, diced, fire-roasted, and more. Peppers also serve double-duty as a colorful garnish for platters. Try using them as containers for dips.

As members of the genus Capsicum, they are also excellent sources of many essential nutrients. Green peppers have twice the amount of vitamin C by weight than citrus fruits, and red bell peppers have three times as much vitamin C and 11 times the beta carotene as the green varieties.

Colors range from the best-known green and red (though all bell peppers start out green, with the color changing as they ripen) to the more exotic; festive purple, yellow, orange, and brown—sometimes called chocolate peppers. For most recipes, the various colors of bell peppers are interchangeable other than the nongreen varieties being somewhat sweeter and a bit more tender.

Select peppers that are firm and glossy with smooth, unwrinkled, and unmarked skin and feel relatively heavy for their size. Store them unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. Because the riper colors, such as red, are more mature than green bell peppers, they are best refrigerated for no more than 3–4 days. If you find yourself with too many peppers from your bumper crop—or can’t resist stocking up at the market—peppers store well in the freezer or can be preserved for later use by themselves or as part of a relish.

To prepare a bell pepper, rinse just before use and cut around the stem, shake out the seeds, and peel away the white part of the inner ribs with a paring knife. If you wish to use the pepper whole for stuffing, clean out the inside through the hole left by removing the stem. If you’ll be slicing them, it’s easiest to shear off the seeds and white part after you’ve already sliced them. As with any pepper, hot or not, wash your hands carefully after handling the centers and seeds as even bell peppers can leave an irritating residue on your hands.

The skin of bell peppers can become tough when cooked, so it is suggested that they be peeled first. They are easy to peel—simply blanch or roast them.

Nancy Teton Gordon, owner of The Gordon Group, LLC, is a marketing consultant
who has written about and had a passion for food for many years!