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Food Facts - Bell Peppers

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A wonderful combination of tangy taste and crunchy texture, bell peppers are the Christmas ornaments of the vegetable world with their beautifully shaped glossy exterior that comes in a wide array of vivid colors ranging from green, red, yellow, orange, purple, brown to black. Although peppers are available throughout the year, they are most abundant and tasty during the months of August and September.

Sweet peppers are plump, bell-shaped vegetables featuring either three or four lobes. They usually range in size from 2 to 5 inches in diameter, and 2 to 6 inches in length. Inside the thick flesh is an inner cavity with edible bitter seeds and a white spongy core. Bell peppers are not 'hot'. They contain a recessive gene that eliminates capsaicin, the compound responsible for the 'hotness' found in other peppers.

Choose peppers that have deep vivid colors, taut skin, and that are free of soft spots, blemishes and darkened areas. Their stems should be green and fresh looking. Peppers should be heavy for their size and firm enough so that they will gently yield to slight pressure. Avoid those that have signs of decay including injuries to the skin or water-soaked areas. The shape of the pepper does not generally affect the quality, although it may result in excessive waste or not be suitable to certain recipe preparations. Peppers are available throughout the year but are usually in greater abundance during the summer months.

Unwashed sweet peppers stored in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator will keep for up to one week. Sweet peppers can be frozen without first being blanched. It is better to freeze them whole since there will be less exposure to air which can degrade both their nutrient content and flavor.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Add finely chopped bell peppers to tuna or chicken salad.

Steam cored peppers for five minutes, stuff them with your favorite rice salad or grain pilaf, and bake in a 350©F oven until they are hot.

Healthy sauté chopped peppers, celery and onions, then combine with tofu, chicken or seafood to make a simple Louisiana Creole dish.

Purée roasted and peeled peppers with healthy sautéed onions and zucchini to make a deliciously refreshing soup that can be served hot or cold.

Bell peppers are one of the best vegetables to serve in a crudité platter since not only do they add a brilliant splash of color, but their texture is also the perfect crunchy complement for dips.

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