Members of the genus Capsicum, all peppers,
both sweet peppers and chili peppers, are excellent sources of
many essential nutrients, especially vitamin C, by weight, green
bell peppers have twice as much as citrus fruit (red peppers have
three times as much). Moreover, red peppers are quite a good source
of beta carotene. Found in a panorama of red, green, yellow, and
purple hues, sweet peppers are guaranteed to add visual zest to
Fresh peppers come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colours,
but the guidelines for choosing them are practically the same.
Peppers should be well shaped, firm, and glossy. Their skins should
be taut and unwrinkled, and their stems fresh and green. Bell
peppers are best when they are thick walled and juicy, so they
should feel heavy for their size. Watch out for soft or sunken
areas, slashes or black spots. If a green bell pepper shows streaks
of red, it will be slightly sweeter than a totally green one;
however, once picked, it won't get any redder, or sweeter.
Store unwashed sweet peppers in a plastic bag in the refrigerator
for up to a week; green peppers will keep somewhat longer than
red or other ripe peppers. Check them frequently; immediately
use any peppers that have developed soft spots.
Wash peppers just before you use them. Some bell peppers are waxed,
and these should be scrubbed well before eating. If you are going
to cut the peppers into strips or pieces, cut the pepper lengthwise
into flat panels. Discard the stems, spongy cores, and seeds (which
can have a bitter taste). If you are using the pepper whole, cut
the stem end off and then discard the core and seeds. Or, for
pepper halves, cut the pepper in half lengthwise (not crosswise).
Pepper skin can be unpleasantly tough in cooked
dishes; you can easily peel peppers by blanching or roasting them.
For most recipes, the various colors of bell peppers are interchangeable
(keep in mind that reds and yellows are sweeter than green peppers).