For Immediate Release
August 27, 2012
PA Peppers Add Spice, Color and Nutrition to Your Meal
Peppers are a favorite flavor enhancing ingredient in many recipes featuring meats or other vegetables. And because they come in various shades of red, yellow, orange and purple besides the basic green, they can also add a rainbow of color. Best of all, they are a significant source of vitamin C as well.
Pennsylvania vegetable growers grow about 1,200 acres of peppers to add that extra bit of flavor to pizza, salads, stir-frys, omelets, sauces, and numerous other dishes. About 80 percent of the acreage in Pennsylvania is planted in sweet peppers. Less than 20 percent is devoted to the hotter varieties. Sweet bell peppers are usually sold in the mature green stage. However, if green peppers are left on the plant to fully mature, they will turn color. Most varieties will turn red but some turn brilliant shades of yellow or orange while others become purple.
As they turn color, their sugar content increases along with their vitamin C content. Green peppers have twice as much vitamin C as citrus fruit by weight while red peppers have three times as much plus beta carotene. Hot peppers are also high in vitamin C.
While the familiar blocky bell peppers are the most common sweet pepper, there are several other kinds that are classified as sweet peppers but have a stronger flavor than bell peppers. This extra flavor makes them excellent additions to various dishes. Among these varieties are cubanelle, banana and pimento peppers.
There are many kinds of hot peppers grown. Probably the most common ones grown in Pennsylvania are Hungarian wax, jalapeno, cherry and cayenne. Capsaicin, the substance that makes peppers hot, is extremely pungent in its pure state. Capsaicin and related compounds are concentrated in the placenta of the pepper – the white ribs inside the pepper that hold the seeds. Thus much of the heat of peppers can be removed if this part is cut out. It is important to wear rubber gloves or repeatedly wash one’s hands while doing this to protect them. Be especially careful not touch the face or eyes during the process.
Besides adding flavor to the diet, sweet peppers can be eaten in quantities sufficient to supply significant amounts of vitamin C to the diet and help fulfill the recommended 2 to 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day recommended by nutrition experts for most Americans. Raw peppers sliced lengthwise into spears make a tasty and colorful addition to platters of other raw vegetables served with dip.
The following recipes from the 2012 Pennsylvania “Simply Delicious, Simply Nutritious” Vegetable Recipe Contest offer delightful options for including peppers in your menus. Additional recipes for peppers and other vegetables are available at www.paveggies.local.
Roasted Red Pepper Halves with Quinoa Stuffing
2 medium red bell peppers
salt and pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons quinoa, well rinsed
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup mild chunky salsa
1/8 pound Andouille sausage, finely diced 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 cups raw spinach, chopped
2 teaspoons pesto
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons toasted pinenuts, optional garnish
Cut peppers in half and remove seeds. Place, cut side down, on greased 4-sided baking sheet. Grease outside of peppers and roast near top of oven at 450 degrees about 10 minutes until peppers show some signs of charring and they are beginning to soften. Lightly salt and pepper insides and set aside. Combine quinoa, broth, salsa,sausage and chili powder in saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed and grain is translucent and swollen. Add a small amount of water or broth if mixture becomes dry before quinoa is tender. Stir in the spinach, pesto, grated cheese and a grinding of black pepper, Spoon mixture into pepper halves. Place in microwave-safe dish and heat in microwave at 90% power for 1 to 2 minutes or until heated. May be garnished with toasted pinenuts, if desired.
Submitted by Frances Dietz, York.
1 to 2 large sweet onions
6 to 8 sweet yellow, orange and red peppers
handful of fresh Italian basil leaves, chopped
pinch or two of diced hot pepper (red)
few pinches of oregano
few pinches of garlic powder
Italian olive oil
4 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Sauté onions sliced (not too thinly) in a large heavy frying pan in some olive oil. When they begin to soften add deseeded sweet peppers sliced in eighths (or approximately) over medium high heat, adjust heat if burning but some blackening of peppers is okay. Cook until peppers have a little bite to them (al dente) – DO NOT OVERCOOK. Add seasonings and keep adding olive oil as necessary. Finally, add coarsely chopped tomatoes and cook just to wilt; you will probably need quite a bit of salt. Drizzle after removing from stove with extra olive oil and serve at room temperature with artisan bread for dipping – stir well.
Submitted by Victoria Hewitt, State College.
Serves 15 to 20
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup Lite Ranch dressing
1 cup finely chopped green peppers
1 cup finely chopped red peppers
1 cup finely chopped orange peppers
1/4 cup fried and crumbled bacon
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
15 to 20 mini fillo shells
Parmesan/Romano cheese, grated
In a mixing bowl cream together cream cheese and dressing. Add peppers, bacon, onion, cheese and garlic powder. Mix until well combined. Spoon into mini fillo shells. Sprinkle with Parmesan/Romano cheese.
Submitted by Bonnie Swartz, Mt. Pleasant
Quick Buying Tips for Pennsylvania Sweet Peppers
The Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program offers these tips when buying fresh sweet peppers:
- Select firm peppers that are heavy for their size.
- Look for peppers with a rich, glossy color.
- Sweet peppers can be briefly refrigerated prior to use.