Vegetables for vitality: bell peppers

Like a string of coloured lights, red, yellow, orange, purple and green peppers brighten the produce section of almost every supermarket these days.

Vegetables for vitality:  bell peppers

Nutritional value

Packed into 125 millilitres (1/2 cup) of raw red pepper:

  • Less than 14 calories
  • The antioxidant beta-carotene to fight chronic disease
  • Folate for normal growth
  • More than the daily requirement for vitamin A
  • More than twice the daily requirement for vitamin C

Finding bell peppers at the market

  • Bell peppers are available all year, but most plentiful in summer.
  • Choose well-shaped globes with firm, glossy skin and no cuts, blisters or bruises.
  • Reject any with mouldy stems, which might be a sign of rot on the inside.
  • Peppers should feel heavy for their size and look crisp, not limp or spongy.

Working with bell peppers in the kitchen

Storing:

  • Store, unwrapped, in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator.
  • Green peppers keep for about a week.
  • Yellow, orange and red ones keep for up to five days.

Preparation:

  • Cut pepper in half through the stem end and remove the stem, seed pods and white ribs.
  • Cut the pepper into flat panels for slicing and chopping.

To peel a pepper:

  1. You must first char it over a barbecue grill lined with foil or under the broiler, turning it often for even blackening. Cook until the skins are charred and blistered.
  2. Steam the charred peppers in a paper bag for 15 minutes.
  3. Scrape off or peel away the skin, cut out the stem and core and discard the seeds.

Basic cooking:

  • Barbecue whole peppers for 20 minutes or slow-roast them in a 190°C (375°F) oven for 30 minutes.
  • Use purple peppers in salads; they turn an unpleasant colour when cooked.
  • Whole peppers, tops cut through to make a lid, can be stuffed with meat or grain mixtures.
  • First microwave the shells for two minutes, then stuff and heat the whole dish.

A few recipe tips

  • Raw or cooked, red, yellow and orange peppers are sweeter than green ones.
  • Raw peppers, chopped or sliced, are good additions to all kinds of salsas as well as salads – pasta, potato, rice or mixed salad greens.
  • Chopped and sautéed in oil, peppers enhance pilafs, pasta sauces, soups, stews and stir-fries.

Not only are they loaded with vitamins, but bell peppers make any dish look colourful and appetizing. It's so simple to add them to a salad, or cook them up and serve them alongside your favourite protein.

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