Summer is prime season for all kinds of peppers. Hot, mild or sweet, you can find all the colors of the rainbow! Peppers are usually separated into those that have capsaicin - the heat component - and those that do not.
Hot, Hot, Hot
Fresh hot peppers are often called chiles. Red chile peppers are full of vitamin C and carotene, more so than green or yellow chiles. They contain Vitamin B6 and other B vitamins. Peppers high in capsaicin may help keep cholesterol levels healthy.
Hot peppers add flavor, depth, heat and complexity to a dish, and their heat levels vary greatly. For example, Anaheim and poblano peppers are fairly mild, whereas jalapeños, serranos and Thai peppers have quite a bit more heat. Then there are the Scotch bonnets and habaneros, both of which are killer-hot! Here are a few things to remember when buying hot peppers:
- The smaller the pepper, the greater the heat. In this case, don't start small!
- To add some heat to your food, but not too much, remove the seeds and the inner membranes of the chile pepper before cooking. Be sure to wear gloves for this, and proceed carefully!
- A little bit goes a long way. Start with a little bit of a hot pepper and add more as desired.
- If you get too much chile pepper and your mouth is burning, don't drink water! The capsaicin is fat soluble, not water soluble, so drinking water can make the heat spread. Better to soothe a burning mouth with rice, bread, cheese, yogurt, milk or sour cream.
- Chile peppers are great for cooling you down and, for this reason, are popular in hot climates. When you eat hot peppers, you sweat; when your sweat evaporates, your skin cools off.
For more information, tune in to our podcast
about the different types of chile peppers and how to pickle your own peppers.
Sweet & Mild
Bell peppers have a recessive gene that eliminates capsaicin, the naturally occurring compound that makes chile peppers so spicy-hot. You'll mostly find bells in their familiar deep colors of green, yellow, orange and red. Red peppers are actually green peppers that have ripened longer, giving them a sweeter flavor. Red, orange and yellow bell peppers are all sweeter than green bell peppers, which are a bit more pungent and bitter.
Nutritionally, you can't go wrong with any color of bell peppers: Add them to your list of powerful antioxidants. They're full of vitamin C and vitamin A from carotenoids, so that's good news for your cells! Among a number of other winners in the bell pepper family, you'll find fiber and vitamin B6.
Need some ideas for adding peppers to your meals? Here are some of our favorite ways:
Are you a pepper person? Got a favorite recipe or tip? I would love to hear.