Week 21: Bell Peppers
Bell peppers belong to the nightshade family of plants, along with chili pepper, cayenne pepper, eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes. They come in a wide variety of colors, including green, yellow, orange, red, purple, brown and black. The green bell peppers may actually be immature, non-ripe versions of these other color varieties; however, not all bell peppers start off green, nor do green bell peppers always mature into the other basic colors.
Bell peppers are available throughout the year but are usually in greater abundance during the summer and early fall months. They can be grown in a variety of climates and are popular in cuisines throughout the world. Within the U.S., California and Florida are the largest bell pepper producing states.
Bell peppers are an outstanding source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. They are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, and vitamin B6. They are a very good source of folate, molybdenum, vitamin E, dietary fiber, vitamin B2, pantothenic acid, niacin, and potassium. Additionally, they are a good source of vitamin K, manganese, vitamin B1, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Antioxidant benefits- These benefits are due to the presence of the phytonutrient (mainly carotenoids) antioxidants as well as to vitamin C, vitamin E and manganese.
Anti-cancer benefits- The rich supply of phytonutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in bell peppers would be expected to help lower our risk of cancer development. Based on preliminary studies on animals and in the lab, cancers of the digestive tract (stomach and esophageal cancers) may be areas in which bell peppers end up showing a special potential for support.
Selection and Storage:
Choose peppers that have deep vivid colors, taut skin, and that are free of soft spots, blemishes and darkened areas. Peppers should be heavy for their size and firm enough so that they will only yield slightly to a small amount of pressure.
Bell peppers can be eaten at any stage of development, however, recent research has shown that the vitamin C and carotenoid content tends to increase while the pepper is reaching its optimal ripeness. If not optimally ripe at the time of purchase, the vitamin C and carotenoids in bell peppers will actually increase with refrigerator storage over the next 10 days. Bell peppers are also typically more flavorful when optimally ripe.
A good rule of thumb to assess for ripeness is to judge not by the color itself but by the color quality and overall texture and feel. Unwashed sweet peppers stored in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator will keep for approximately 7-10 days.
Bell peppers need to stay well hydrated and are very sensitive to moisture loss so it is recommended to include a damp cloth or paper towel in the vegetable compartment to help the peppers retain their moisture. Do not cut out the bell pepper stem prior to storage in the refrigerator. Before coring and/or cutting the pepper, wash it under cold running water. If the pepper has been waxed, you should also scrub it gently and thoroughly with a natural bristle brush.
Higher heat cooking can damage some of the delicate phytonutrients in bell peppers. It is therefore recommended to use cooking methods where lower heat is used for a very short period of time.
Recipe Suggestion: I am excited to share this amazing chopped thai salad from Pinch of Yum with you. It is definitely many pinches of yum!