Bell peppers are the sweeter, milder cousins of chilis and come in a variety of colors: green, yellow, orange, and red. The color of the pepper indicates the degree to which the pepper has ripened, green being the youngest and most bitter and red the ripest and sweetest. Bell peppers are excellent sources of vitamin C – 1 cup of chopped bell pepper contains more than twice the amount found in an orange! – and are also great sources of antioxidants such as vitamin E and manganese.
**All About Bell Peppers**
In Season: Bell Peppers
When to Buy: Bell peppers are super popular and can be found in most grocery stores all year round. However, peak pepper season is from March through October.
What to Buy: Look for peppers that have a glossy, even color and that are firm in texture. Make sure there are no soft spots or bruises, as this could indicate a rotting inside. Healthy peppers should also have a firm, vibrant green stem. Shape isn’t an important factor in picking a good pepper, however – even oddly deformed peppers can be delicious!
Prep & Storage: Unwashed, whole bell peppers can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week, although it is recommended that a damp cloth or paper towel be placed with the peppers in order to avoid moisture loss. If the peppers are to be eaten within a few days of purchase, it’s perfectly fine and even suggested to keep them unrefrigerated.
How to Cook: In order to retain the most antioxidant and nutritional value, it is best to steam bell peppers, which are delicious served with rice or even plain. Bell peppers are also great roasted – cooked this way, roasted peppers make a tasty addition to pizza, pasta, and sandwiches. However, bell peppers are great eaten and served pretty much any way you like – raw, stuffed, added to soup or stir fry, etc. Before cooking, make sure to remove the core, pith and seeds and to wash thoroughly.
Recipe Box: Try out some of our favorite recipes with bell peppers!
Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Pesto
This smokey and slightly sweet take on pesto makes any regular pasta or sandwich something special!
Bell peppers are a must when making Southwestern food like these fajitas.
The peppers in this meatless gumbo gives the dish a boost of vitamins!
This colorful mixture of corn and red and orange bell peppers makes for a sweet side dish.
Hummus topped with Roasted Red Peppers
Take plain hummus and top with roasted red peppers to add some grilled, sweet flavor to this classic dip.
Sarah McAnaw is a junior at American University where she studies International Studies and Biology. After cooking (and eating!) her way through a semester in Florence, Italy last fall, she’s headed south to Haifa, Israel this spring to study the Arab-Israeli conflict and experience the culinary flavors of the Middle East first hand.