The Pepper – Many Names, One Plant

The pepper, or capsicum as it is also known, is a fruit of the nightshade plant family that also includes tomatoes, aubergine and potatoes. The herbaceous flowering plants have long oval leaves and usually white bell-shaped blossoms. Sensitive to cold, they grow in sandy, loose and slightly acidic soil. Although the fruit of the originally South American plant is usually referred to as a pod or husk, botanically peppers are actually berries.

Food Facts Food Facts

Pepper (red)

Class

Capsicum

Calories

31 kcal per 100 g

Nutrients

4.6g carbohydrate, 1.7g fibre, 0.4g fat, 1.3g protein per 100 g

Season

available year-round

Storage

store in a cool, dry cellar at 10°C to 12°C

Shelf life

1 to 2 weeks

The Pepper – Cultivation and Harvest

Peppers take roughly 50 to 100 days to fully ripen and transform in colour throughout the process, usually from green to yellow and finally red. However, there are also bell peppers which transform from orange, brown or even white. Pepper cultivation regions are found all over the world nowadays – either in areas with a warm climate or in greenhouses. This means that they can be found on the shelves of Swiss supermarkets year-round, either domestically grown or imported. Peppers are still harvested by hand – the ripe fruit is carefully removed from the plant to avoid damaging it or the shoots.

The Pepper – Shopping, Storage and Preparation

Fresh peppers are easy to identify by their smooth, firm and glossy skin. At home, peppers are best stored in the cellar or the vegetable drawer of the fridge, but temperatures below 8°C damage the cold-sensitive pod. Green bell peppers are harvested before they are ripe, but the yellow and red versions are given more time to fully ripen before harvest, which means they are significantly more flavourful.

The Pepper – Peeling the Fruit

Peeling a pepper is no easy task – the shape and hollow inside of the fruit make it a decidedly difficult undertaking. Usually the skin is simply left on and consumed with the fruit. Some recipes demand peppers to be peeled, in which case there are a few options: if using raw pepper, the best bet is to use a sharp tomato or potato peeler. It is easiest to peel peppers when they are fresh and their skin is firm. Peel it first, then remove the seeds and chop it up.

You can also peel peppers when they have been cooked. First, remove the stem and the inside of the pepper, including the seeds and cut it into quarters. Then either add them to a pot of boiling water, or roast them in the preheated oven at 220°C. If you choose to boil the peppers, they only require two minutes before they are ready to be peeled. Roasting them in the oven takes longer and you have to wait until dark spots begin to appear on the skin. Once the peppers are finished cooking, briefly blanch them in cold water and remove the skin using a knife – it should be easy to pull the skin off the pepper.

The Pepper – Stuffed for an Easy, Delicious Meal

Looking for a quick and easy pepper recipe? Try one of the most popular Balkan recipes: stuffed peppers. For a classic take on stuffed peppers, fill them with rice, ham and mushrooms or a spicy minced meat mixture. Briefly fry the peppers and then stew them in tomato sauce, either in the oven or in a pot. Use couscous and feta or quinoa and lentils for a protein-rich vegetarian option.

The Pepper – Nutrients

Why should you eat peppers regularly? Because they are a real vitamin C bomb – 100 grams of the healthy pod contains 191 mg of the immune system boosting vitamin. This high content exceeds even that of the famously vitamin C-rich orange. What’s more, bell peppers contain fibre which regulates digestion and makes you feel fuller for longer. All of these nutrients are accompanied by only 50 calories for a pepper of medium size. A true lightweight that deserves a firm place in your diet.

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