For Immediate Release
PA Peppers Add Spice, Color and Nutrition to Your Meals
August 10, 2007
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 1,300 acres of peppers to add that extra bit of flavor to pizza, salads, stir-frys, omelets, sauces, and numerous other dishes. About 85 percent of the acreage in Pennsylvania is planted in sweet peppers. Less than 15 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 2006 Pennsylvania “Simply Delicious” Vegetable Recipe Contest offer delightful options for including peppers in your menus:
1 T. Olive Oil
1/2 c. Sweet Onion – chopped
1/2 c. Green Sweet Pepper – chopped
1/2 c. Red Sweet Pepper – chopped
2 cloves Garlic – fresh, minced
2 c. Vegetable Stock
14 oz. Stewed Tomatoes – undrained and cut up
8 oz. Tomato Sauce
1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 c. Brown Rice – quick cooking, uncooked
15.5 oz. Butter Beans – drained and rinsed
15.5 oz. Red Beans – drained and rinsed
pinch Parsley – fresh
6 Bread Bowls
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onion, peppers, and garlic. Cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes or until crisp and tender. Stir in the water, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil and add the rice. Reduce the heat to low and simmer covered 20 to 25 minutes until the rice is tender. Stir occasionally. Stir in the beans and simmer covered an additional 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve in bread bowls.
Submitted by Kathy Rohrbaugh, Shrewsbury.
Scrapple Stuffed Peppers
4 Bell Peppers – large, any color
Wash peppers. Cut out the stems, seeds and membranes. Rinse out the inside of the peppers. Stuff with the scrapple. Put in a pan with water. Bake at 350ºF until the scrapple stuffing is cooked.
Submitted by Sharon Taylor, Montoursville.
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.