Bell pepper is also known as sweet pepper. The name ‘bell pepper’ is given to this species of ‘capsicum annum’ due to its bell shape. Bell peppers change from green to red or yellow, and become sweeter as they ripen on the vine. The peppers that are usually eaten are fully developed but not completely ripe and hence green in color. Green bell pepper has waxy skin that is not very easy to digest but it provides longer shelf-life to the pepper. The less pungent flavor of bell peppers makes it the most popular variety of pepper to be used in making pepper dishes. Stuffed bell peppers, bell pepper salad and paprika are some of the famous bell pepper recipes across the world.
Bell pepper is believed to be the native of Mexico and Central America. In 1493, the seeds of the pepper were carried to Spain from where this cultivar group’s popularity spread to European, Asian as well as African cuisines. In Europe, bell peppers are commonly known as ‘peppers’. ‘Capsicum’ or ‘chili peppers’ are some of the alternate names for bell peppers.
Though bell pepper is a fruit, in culinary terms it is used as a vegetable. It is available in different colors such as red, yellow, orange and green and its hot taste makes it a very popular ingredient in global cuisine. Bell peppers make a delicious addition to salads and other pepper dishes such as stir-fried vegetables or grilled vegetables. Various meat dishes also include peppers as a flavoring ingredient. The seeds of bell pepper are usually discarded while cooking. Pizza toppings and sandwich fillings are some of the most popular bell pepper recipes. The bell shape of the pepper makes it an ideal vegetable for stuffing purposes. Mashed potato, minced meat and cottage cheese are some of the common pepper stuffing ingredients. Stuffed pepper tastes best when charred under a grill. Soups and stew dishes also make good use of bell pepper. They can also be grilled, skinned and pureed to accompany meat, pasta or fish.
• Classic beef and rice stuffed capsicum – It is a very commonly served American bell pepper dish. This dish makes good use of leftover rice along with beef. • Roasted peppers and seasonal vegetables – The roasted peppers give a nice peppery aroma to fresh seasonal vegetables and the dish is seasoned with herbs and spices. It is a healthy bell pepper dish.
• Red pepper Marinara sauce – Sweet red pepper is used to spike this popular pasta sauce. Marinara sauce is a nice accompainment also for finger foods.
• Classic Chinese pepper steak – This classic recipe includes beef along with thin stripes of bell pepper. It is one of the most popular bell pepper dishes in Chinese cuisine.
Bell Pepper is a versatile and readily available ingredient hence it is used with equal importance in almost all world cuisines. Most popularly, bell pepper is used in Asian cuisine where it is known as ‘capsicum’. In Chinese cuisine, bell pepper dishes are usually stir-fried. Rice and chicken dishes often include sliced or chopped bell peppers. Indian cuisine includes bell pepper in various side dishes such as potato stuffed capsicum or stir-fried potato and capsicum. In India bell pepper is called ‘simla mirch’. In the cuisines of USA and Canada, yellow and red bell peppers are mostly used for salads and sandwich fillings. Pickled bell pepper recipes are also very common in these cuisines. Cuisines of Portugal and cuisines of Brazil also make good use of bell pepper. Curried bell pepper dishes are very popular in Sri Lankan and in Argentinean cuisines; bell pepper is a part of traditional barbeque meal.
• Grilled – Grilling is the most preferred method of making bell pepper dishes as this method keeps the nutrients of the vegetable intact.
• Stuffed – Due to its shape, bell pepper is an ideal vegetable for stuffing and it makes a delicious side dish.
• Pureed – Bell pepper is grilled and pureed to make delicious pepper sauce. This sauce can be added to pasta and noodle dishes.
• Baked – Baked dishes such as baked vegetables and casserole dishes often add bell pepper as an ingredient.
• Boiled – Soup and stew dishes usually use boiling method for cooking bell pepper.
• Stir-fried – Bell pepper dishes cooked in Asian cuisine are mainly made with stir-fried method.
• Pickled – Pickled bell pepper is one of the most popular bell pepper recipes in USA and Canada.
• Bell pepper is an excellent source of vitamin C, which is necessary for ligaments and bones.
• Red pepper is a very good source of beta carotene. It is an antioxidant that converts into vitamin A as and when required by the body.
• Bioflavonoid is also present in abundance in peppers that help in protecting against certain cancers. Buying and Storing of Bell Peppers Though bell peppers are readily available in all grocery stores they are in highest supply during mid-summers till late-summers.
• Plump and smooth bell peppers are considered fresh and high quality vegetables.
• There should not be any soft-spots on the skin of the pepper.
• Bright colored bell peppers are ideal for buying.
• Storing of bell peppers is not a very difficult task as only a small cold compartment is required for the storage.
• Bell peppers can stay fresh in refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.
• Leftover bell pepper dishes can be stored for not more than 2 days.
• Bell peppers and bell pepper dishes should not be kept in refrigerator as freezing spoils the crispiness of the vegetable.
Though pepper has many varieties bell pepper has three main varieties.
• Green pepper – Green bell pepper is the most commonly used variety of peppers. It is less sweet in flavor and more of bitter taste.
• Red pepper – Red pepper is less sweet in taste and much more nutritious than green variety.
• Yellow or orange pepper – This variety is also sweet in taste and mainly used as a salad ingredient.
• Mexico produces the largest amount of bell peppers around the world. • Bell pepper has double the amount of vitamin C as compared to oranges.