Banana pepper, also known as banana chili or yellow wax pepper, is a type of chili pepper native to South America. However, it is not considered a hot pepper as it only ranges from 0-500 Scoville Units. Instead, it provides a gentle aroma, along with a slightly sweet and tang taste. It is named as such because it resembles the actual shape of the banana fruit; its slender body slightly curves towards its tapered tip. Likewise, it is also typically bright yellow in color. But, as it matures, it changes to green, red, or orange, and it tends to get sweeter as they ripen. Nevertheless, this pepper variety is often pickled, stuffed, or eaten raw, and is available in the forms of banana peppers, pepperoncini peppers, bell peppers, yellow wax peppers (Hungarian wax peppers), and other peppers.
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade)
Genus: Capsicum L. (Pepper)
Species: Capsicum Annuum
Binomial Name: Capsicum Annuum ‘Banana Pepper’
Banana Pepper Trivia
- Banana pepper is five times milder than a jalapeño pepper.
- The hot cultivars of banana pepper can range from 5,000 to 10,000 Scoville Units.
- Banana peppers are named or spelled differently in certain countries. It’s called ‘banana pfeffer’ in German, ‘banano pimienta’ in Spanish, ‘banana pimento’ in Portuguese, and ‘Musa sapientum fixa pepper’ in Latin.
Banana Pepper Buying Guide
- Check the size of the banana peppers and choose the ones between 4 and 8 inches long.
- Check the color of the banana peppers. They range from bright yellow to green when unripe, and bright red when ripe. The riper they are, the sweeter they get.
- Look for signs of rot. Discard the ones that are soft or have dark spots.
- Fresh banana peppers should have a shiny skin that remains firm when touched. Discard the ones that are wrinkled or discolored.
- If possible, buy banana peppers during its season. Organic ones might not be as perfectly shaped as the conventional or GMO ones, but they’re sweeter and more nutritious. Not to mention that they’re kinder to the planet too.
- As always, banana peppers from farmers’ markets are better than the ones in stores. Here, the products are usually organic and you might be able to taste them before you buy them.
Banana Pepper Production & Farming in Texas
All kinds of peppers are tropical perennials. Yet, they are usually grown as annuals. These warm-season crops thrive in most Texas areas, where growers start sowing seeds in the spring or summer. Once the seeds germinate and start to outgrow the pot, they should be transplanted outside, provided that the temperature remains above 60ºF. Transfer them indoors during the winter season.
Banana pepper plants grow between 1 and 2 feet tall. Yet, they can easily produce between 25 and 30 pods per plant. They should be planted on a loose, moist, and well-drained soil that is rich in nutrients and have a pH level between 6.2 and 7.0. They also need full sun, with at least 8 hours of sunlight each day. Depending on the cultivar, these peppers usually take 60-75 days to mature and they can grow up to 2-3 inches long. They will also change their color from green to light yellow or red as they mature and get ready for harvest. When they are, start picking the peppers regularly as this will encourage the plant to continue producing. Cut the stems using a scissor of a sharp knife rather than pulling the peppers away from the plant to avoid damaging the branches.
Conventional or organically grown, fruits and vegetables are essential components of a healthy diet. However, many of these contain potentially harmful pesticides, even after thorough washing, peeling, or scrubbing. Thus, what we can only do is to be aware of which items are the most or least contaminated.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an American group that focuses on the advocacy of agricultural subsidies, pollutants, and toxic chemicals. They have created the Dirty Dozen List, which is being updated each year to rank fruits and vegetables that contain the highest pesticide contamination based on the samples tested by the USDA and FDA. However, this list doesn’t rank peppers. But, since they tested positive on pesticides that are known to be toxic to the brain, they’ve created their Dirty Dozen Plus™ list instead and included these peppers.
Between the years 2010 and 2012, the USDA found oxamyl, acephate, and chlorpyrifos in peppers. These toxic pesticides are banned from use on some crops. However, they’re still permitted to be used on chile peppers. Thus, it is better to buy organic peppers to reduce your pesticide consumption. If they’re unavailable or too expensive, we suggest you cook the conventional ones instead before eating them as heating these peppers can reduce the levels of pesticides. Or better yet, consider growing your own peppers organically.
Although banana peppers are native to South America, China remains to be the world’s largest producer of chilis, providing half of the global total. Mexico, Turkey, and Indonesia rank next, with the United States being in seventh place. Growing banana peppers is possible in many climates and can be best grown during the warmer climates of the growing season.
Fresh banana peppers are commonly sold and priced by weight, either by the pound or kilogram. But, if you’re planning to buy on wholesale, go to your nearest local producer, and you can get these peppers in bushels, cartons, and even crates. Meanwhile, you can also buy pickled banana peppers that are packaged in glass jars.
Enjoying Banana Peppers
The mild and sweet taste of banana peppers make them extremely popular on a variety of foods. They are commonly pickled or used fresh. Pickled banana peppers and pickled peppers add a tangy taste to pizzas, salads, and sandwiches. They are also commonly stuffed with meat and/or cheese, which are then baked, fried, or grilled. Chopped banana peppers also adds a bit of sweetness to salsas and relishes like the famous Southern chowchow. Furthermore, fresh banana peppers may be jellied or candied, along with some other chile peppers like jalapeños. Stuffed banana peppers, banana pepper poppers, jalapeño poppers with bell peppers, and banana pepper rings are all popular ways to enjoy the sweet-hot flavor, which will surely make you enjoy the various flavors of mild peppers.
All fresh peppers are best kept unwashed, in a sealable and airtight container lined with paper towels. They should be stored in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator, with a temperature that ranges between 40 and 45ºF. Properly stored, they will retain their freshness for 2-3 weeks. It’s also good to consider that peppers with thick skins last longer than the thin ones. And, whole peppers are more shelf-stable than the sliced ones. Meanwhile, you can also freeze fresh peppers. Spread them evenly, on a single layer in a sheet tray, and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the peppers onto freezer-safe bags. Here, it’ll last for up to a year but take note that frozen peppers can only be used in cooking. It’s not meant to be eaten raw as it requires further heat to kill the bacteria. But, to further retain its crispness, you can half-cook the peppers in oil prior to freezing.
In addition to the popular stuffed banana peppers, you can also chop them and sauté them with some other vegetables and meat. Fresh banana peppers and hot peppers can be added for added flavor, while hot banana peppers can be used for an extra kick. Deep-fried banana peppers are also a Southern favorite, where they’re served as an appetizer or a side dish next to Southern fried chicken or roasted ham. The secret to this recipe is actually saltine crackers. Wash the banana peppers and cut them in half lengthwise. Take out the seeds and pat dry the peppers with paper towels. Soak them in milk, and then roll them on flour and crushed saltine crackers. Fry them in hot oil until golden warm. Rest them on paper towels and serve warm.
Raw banana pepper is composed of 92% water, 5% carbohydrates, 4% protein, and 1% fat.
- Carbohydrates: Banana pepper is naturally low in calories and carbohydrates, which comes mostly from the fiber. It is also low in glycemic load.
- Fiber: Banana pepper is a significant source of fiber. Fiber is so dense that it makes you feel full faster without eating too much.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Banana pepper is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and B6. It’s also a good plant-based source of calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Therefore, banana pepper really favors vegetarian and vegan meals.
- Banana pepper promotes weight loss because of its high water and low sugar content. Thus, it is very low in calories and it’ll help you feel more satisfied and full after eating.
- The high levels of vitamin A promotes healthy vision. It also helps in preventing cancer too.
- The high levels of vitamin C acts as an antioxidant. It helps in boosting immunity and repairing cells, which retards the human aging process. It can also reduce the development of gout significantly.
- The high levels of vitamin B6 reduces the development of rheumatoid arthritis. But if you already have one, banana peppers can help control the pain.
- The insoluble fiber from the banana peppers prevents constipation and indigestion.
- Although banana peppers contain small amounts of capsaicin, the compound that gives chiles their heat, they’ve been proven to kill cancer cells efficiently. It also boosts our immune system, helping our bodies fight against inflammation.
When Are Banana Peppers in Season in Texas?
To find out when Banana Peppers are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.