Bell Pepper Guide

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Origins, colors, varieties and more

In Sweden, we insist on calling Bell Peppers (Capsicum annuum) Paprika, which is ridiculous, but for lack of a better name, it continues we refer to Bell Peppers as Paprika in this article.
Sometimes you can also see Bell Peppers in stores under the name Spanish Pepper, sometimes with an indication of their color. But it is all the same fruit, depending on the degree of maturity, the color changes.

Peppers are great to cook with as they add a unique sweet flavor to a variety of dishes, salads, sauces and condiments. Peppers also have high nutritional value and are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C.

Originating from Mexico and countries in Central and South America, peppers are botanically classified as berries but used as vegetables. They come in many colors such as red, green, orange, yellow and purple. Although generally sweet, each variety has its own distinct flavor.

What is paprika?

Peppers (Capsicum annuum) are berries according to botanical classification but are mostly used as culinary vegetables or culinary ingredients, just like tomatoes. The fact that they are produced from a flowering plant and contain seeds makes them technically fruits. These fruits or peppers are shaped like bells and are usually three to six inches long. They have thick meat that is juicy and crispy when eaten raw.

Peppers have different names in different parts of the world. In the US, Canada and the Philippines, for example, these fruits are called peppers. While in the UK and Ireland, they are simply called peppers or sweet peppers. And in Australia, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Malaysia they are called Capsicums.
Capsicum is a genus of flowering plants in the Solanaceae or nightshade family and peppers are of the Grossum variety, producing fruits in a variety of shapes & colors.

Several varieties of the Capsicum species are called by different names, such as Pepperoncini, Peperoncino and Jalapeño. Anaheim, Cubanelle, Chili, Cayenne, cherry and banana peppers are also Capsicums. Paprika, meanwhile, is a powdered spice made up of several varieties of peppers.

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The origin of peppers

Peppers are originally from Mexico and countries in Central and South America.

The Italian explorer Christopher Columbus and his Spanish companions gave the fruit its name ‘pepper’. They were looking for peppercorn plants, which produce black pepper, to bring back to Europe. Black pepper was a highly prized spice or condiment at the time, and explorers hoped to make a lot of money from the highly profitable spice trade.

Columbus and his men brought back to Europe various samples of what they thought was pepper, including paprika, which is not related to a peppercorn (Piper nigrum). In Europe, the name ‘pepper’ was simply applied to any spice that had a pungent smell and a hot taste. This name was extended to the genus Capsicum.

From there, peppers then spread throughout Europe and Asia, and now they are grown all over the world. In the US today, most green peppers are grown in Florida. But not far behind are California, New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas.

Bell Pepper

Nutritional content and health benefits of peppers

You can eat peppers either cooked or raw. You can also dry them for use in powder form. Peppers are very rich in antioxidants and vitamin C and they are low in calories, so they would be a great addition to your diet no matter what diet you follow.

According to matkalkyl.se, raw peppers consist of 91% water, while the rest is made up of carbohydrates, which account for most of the calorie content and very small amounts of fat and protein. The carbohydrates are mainly sugars, which are responsible for giving the pepper its sweet taste. These sugars include glucose and fructose. Peppers are also low in fiber.

Vitamins and Minerals Present in Bell Peppers

You can also get a variety of vitamins and minerals from eating peppers.
There is Vitamin C (Vitamin C or ascorbic acid) has many health benefits, including helping with the proper growth and development of your body’s tissues, as well as with their repair. It also helps to protect your body against immune deficiencies, among many others.

Medium-sized red peppers are one of the richest sources of vitamin C, with 169% of the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake). Green peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus fruits and red peppers contain more than twice as much vitamin C as green peppers.

Other vitamins and minerals that you can find in peppers:

  • Vitamin B6. Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 is a group of essential nutrients that help in the formation of red blood cells and in hemoglobin production. It also helps with brain function.
  • Vitamin K1. Vitamin K1, also known as phytomenadione or phylloquinone, is a fat-soluble vitamin that promotes bone metabolism, blood clotting and regulates blood calcium levels.
  • Potassium. This mineral and electrolyte helps muscle function, including the muscles responsible for your breathing and heartbeat. It helps regulate heart rate, blood pressure, nerve impulses, digestion and your pH balance.
  • Folate. Folate or vitamin B9 has a wide range of bodily functions, including the production of white and red blood cells in your bone marrow. It is also important in the production of RNA and DNA and in the conversion of carbohydrates into energy. This vitamin is very important during pregnancy as it benefits the growth of the fetus.
  • Vitamin E. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant, and it is important for healthy muscles and nerves. It helps protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals.
  • Vitamin A. Peppers, especially the red ones, are rich in pro-vitamin A or beta-carotene. Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is essential for healthy vision, immune function, cellular communication and reproduction.

Other nutrients found in peppers

In addition to vitamins and minerals, peppers also have a variety of other plant compounds that are mainly antioxidants. These associations include:

  • Capsanthin. Capsanthin is a potent antioxidant that gives red peppers their bright red color and it can help raise levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, which is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
  • Violaxanthin. Violaxanthin is the most abundant carotenoid antioxidant found in yellow peppers.
  • Lutein. Lutein is abundant in immature or green peppers and absent in mature ones. Lutein can improve eye health.
  • Quercetin. Quercetin is a polyphenol antioxidant that helps prevent certain chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
  • Luteolin. Like quercetin, luteolin is a polyphenol antioxidant that has a variety of health benefits.

Health benefits of peppers

  • Promotes eye health. Peppers contain high amounts of carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin, which help improve eye health and reduce the risk of visual impairment. They protect your eyes’ light-sensitive inner wall, called the retina, from oxidative damage. A number of studies showed that consuming foods with high carotenoid content such as paprika can reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • Helps prevent anemia. Iron deficiency causes anemia, which is characterized by your blood’s reduced ability to carry oxygen. It manifests itself through fatigue and weakness. Peppers are a great source of vitamin C, which promotes better absorption of iron found in your gut. So peppers enjoyed with foods rich in iron can help prevent anemia.

Negative effects of eating peppers

Some people can be allergic to peppers, although this is quite rare. Those with pollen allergy may also have a sensitivity to peppers as an allergic cross-reaction. Allergic cross-reactivity can occur between certain ingredients or foods because they may have similar allergens.

Colors and flavors of peppers

Peppers come in red, green, yellow, orange, purple, white and sometimes brown colors or varieties. The variety of the plant and the stage of maturity of the fruit are factors that determine the particular taste and color of each pepper.

In general, peppers have a mild, sweet flavor, and the more they ripen, the sweeter they become. As such, red peppers are expected to be sweeter than the green ones, which are unripe and therefore taste sharper. The orange variety is also less flavorful than the red one.

Unripe, green peppers will eventually turn into another color, like red or orange, as they mature. Their taste will also become softer as they ripen, and their sugar content will increase.

However, there are some varieties that do not start green. Light yellow and ivory peppers will develop the same color as they mature. Brown colored peppers meanwhile have brown skin, but they are green on the inside and turn green when cooked.

As for purple peppers, depending on their variety, they start out either white or green and then turn deep purple as they mature. If these purple peppers are not harvested right away, they will eventually turn red. Purple peppers also turn green when cooked.

Hanar vs Honor peppers

There is a common misconception that there is a difference between male and female peppers, but this is not true. Many people claim that one can identify between male and female peppers by the number of lobes on the bottom of the pepper, where peppers with four lobes on the bottom are female, they produce more seeds and are sweeter than their male counterparts that have three lobes on the bottom.

However, there is no truth in any of this! Peppers have no gender

Pepper varieties

Some of the common varieties of peppers include:

  • Candy Apple. Candy Apple is an early fruiting variety of pepper as it produces fruit in about 70 days. These peppers are sweet and they grow up to five centimeters long.
  • California Wonder. Also called the Sweet California Wonder, this four-inch, dark red pepper would work well to use in your stuffed pepper recipe.
  • Golden Bell. Golden Bells start out green, but they turn golden yellow as they mature. These peppers have a sweet flavor with a nice crunch and they usually ripen in 65 to 75 days.
  • Cabernet. Cabernet peppers are elongated at eight centimeters long. The fruits are glossy and turn from green to red as they ripen. They also have a very sweet taste.
  • Carmen. Carmen peppers are tapered fruits that go from green to deep red. These peppers are six cm long and are a type of Italian Corno di toro or bull horn pepper.
  • Gourmet. Gourmet peppers are an attractive bright orange when ripe. They have juicy, sweet meat.
  • Cupids. Cupids can be harvested green at 55 days, or you can wait 75 days for them to turn red and sweet. These fruits come from large plants with a fine spread of branches.
  • Sweet Chocolate. Sweet Chocolate peppers are chocolate-colored with brick-red flesh. They are smooth and their shape tapers to stubby and blunt ends. These peppers are mild.
  • Lunchbox. Lunchbox peppers are in mini size. They are sweet and would fit perfectly in snack bags and can also be added to salads. The fruits are either yellow, orange or red.
  • Moonset. Moonset peppers are good to eat fresh and raw, but they are also suitable for frying or stuffing. The fruits are medium-sized and start out green and turn golden yellow as they ripen.
  • Islander. Islander peppers have pale lavender peels with streaks of orange or yellow. They ripen into dark red fruits. Their meat is light yellow and they have a mild and slightly sweet taste.
  • Sweet Sunrise. Sweet Sunrise paprika is fruity flavored. They are medium-sized and can be harvested in 65 days. They start as green fruits that turn yellow-orange as they ripen in 85 days.
  • Intruder. Intruder peppers are large, green fruits with a blocky shape. These peppers also have thick walls. This variety is well adapted to the Northeastern part of the U.S.
  • King Arthur. King Arthur peppers are four to five inch fruits that you can harvest in 60 days. These green peppers turn bright red and, regardless of ripeness, are sweet and crisp.
  • Good as Gold. This Italian variety of pepper has a complex flavor as it is sweet and savory at the same time. These fruits are perfect for roasting and grilling, but you can also chop them and throw them into your salad.
  • Gypsy. Gypsy peppers are a proven variety. These are four-inch fruits that taper in shape. They are sweet when they have ripened from golden green to orange and then to red.
paprika powder

How hot are peppers on the Scoville scale?

Peppers have 0(zero) Scoville Heat Units.

The Scoville scale measures the spice or heat level of the pepper. More specifically, it measures the capsaicin content of the pepper. Capsaicin is a lipophilic chemical compound in peppers, mostly found in their pulp and seeds, and it is responsible for their spicy heat. This is the chemical that causes a burning sensation in your tongue and makes your ears hurt and your body sweat after eating a hot pepper or after capsaicin comes into contact with your mucous membranes.

Cooking with peppers

Peppers add crunch, color and sweetness to a wide variety of recipes. As a rule, peppers that are more colorful and sweeter are better for eating raw or adding to salads. Green pepper, which is immature and less sweet tasting, is generally better for cooking.

Peppers also make great toppings for a pizza. They also taste great roasted on their own or roasted or stir-fried with other vegetables. You can also make stuffed peppers, where they are cut in half and hollowed out to make room for different types of fillings, which can be a combination of ingredients such as meat, potatoes, onions, eggs, spinach and other vegetables.

The cooking spice paprika is also made from a combination of dried paprika and other types of peppers. Peppers are also used to make salsa and various sauces and condiments.

How to choose peppers for cooking

When buying peppers for cooking, choose those that are bright, firm and have a glossy surface. Stay away from peppers with soft spots, moldy stems, cuts and wrinkled skin.

You may also need to consider the time of year when picking peppers. Green pepper is usually available all year round, while other colors can be seen on the production line only during peak season or from July to October.

Frequently asked questions(FAQ)

Can peppers be frozen?

Yes, peppers can be frozen. It is best to blanch them briefly before freezing to preserve their color, texture and nutritional value.

Can I use paprika in recipes that require other types of pepper?

In most cases, yes. Paprika can often be substituted for other peppers in recipes. However, keep in mind that their milder flavor may change the taste of the dish slightly.

Can people with dietary restrictions consume peppers?

Peppers are generally safe for most people, but those with specific dietary restrictions should be careful. For example, people with certain allergies should avoid peppers as they belong to the evening primrose family. In addition, individuals following a low-carb or ketogenic diet should pay attention to the carbohydrate content of peppers.

How should peppers be stored?

Store the peppers unwashed in the fridge, either in the “vegetable drawer” or in a plastic bag. They can last up to a week when properly stored.

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