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Bell Peppers

Bell pepper is the fruit of the flowering plant Capsicum annuum. It is also known as sweet pepper, capsicum, or simply pepper. It is native to South and Central America, as well as to Mexico. Bell pepper seeds were first imported to Spain around the year 1493. Soon after, they were cultivated throughout the rest of Europe and Asia. By the year 1920s, these mild peppers reached the city of Szeged in Hungary. Consequently, it has been widely domesticated in most parts of the world, including the United States.

Nevertheless, bell peppers are botanically classified as berries. Despite this, they are commonly treated as vegetables. They are noted for their mild and sweet taste, which is enhanced as soon as the fruit ripens.

Classification Information:
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade)
Genus: Capsicum (Pepper)
Species: Capsicum Annuum
Binomial Name: Capsicum Annuum ‘Bell Pepper’

Bell Pepper Trivia

  • Mythically speaking, bell peppers have genders that refers to the number of their lobes. Learn more about the difference between male and female bell pepper at the buying guide section below.
  • Although bell peppers belong to the Capsicum genus, they do not produce capsaicin, the compound that gives chiles their heat and is proven to kill cancer cells efficiently. 
  • These peppers are actually fruits rather than vegetables. It is due to the fact that they are harvested from a flowering plant that contains seeds.
  • Green bell peppers are the most popular type of bell pepper in the United States, despite the fact that red bell peppers contain more than twice the vitamin C of green bell peppers.
  • Speaking of vitamin C, bell peppers increase their vitamin C content as they ripen.

Bell Pepper Buying Guide

Buying Guide:

  • Choose bell peppers based on its color. All bell peppers start as green on the plant. They change to yellow, orange, and red as they mature. Thus, green bell peppers are the most bitter among the colors. Orange and yellow ones are sweeter, with the red ones being the sweetest.
  • Assuming the gender myth, choose your bell pepper’s gender based on your usage purpose. Male bell peppers only have 3 bumps at the bottom side opposite the stem. They are taller and thinner compared to the female ones. Although they are not as sweet, they can hold up better in heat. Thus these peppers are best for cooking, whether it’d be a stir-fry, soup, stew, or other methods. Meanwhile, female bell peppers have 4 bumps at the bottom side opposite the stem. They are round and have more seeds inside. They are sweeter than the male bell peppers. Hence, these peppers are best eaten raw, whether it’d be salads, sandwich trays, or veggie sticks.
  • Check the size of the bell peppers and choose the ones that are 4-5 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. 
  • Check out the bell pepper’s skin. Choose the ones that are thick-walled, firm, and glossy. Avoid the ones that have soft spots or shriveled.
  • If possible, buy bell 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, bell 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.

Bell Pepper Production & Farming in Texas

All kinds of peppers are tropical perennials. But in colder climates, they are usually grown as annuals because they cannot tolerate cold weather at all. These warm-season crops thrive in most Texas areas, where growers start sowing seeds indoors, 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 70ºF. If necessary, use a heating pad under the seed tray.

Bell pepper plants grow between 0.5 and 3 feet tall. Yet, they can easily produce up to 70 peppers per plant. They should be planted on a well-drained, sandy or loamy soil that is rich in nutrients and have a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5. They also need full sun, with at least 8 hours of sunlight each day. Depending on the cultivar, these peppers usually take 90-100 days to mature and they can grow up to 3-4 inches long. They will also change their color from green, to yellow, to orange, to 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.

Pesticides:

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 bell 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.

Geography:

China remains to be the world’s largest producer of bell peppers, accounting for more than 70% of the world production. Mexico and Indonesia rank next. Other major producers include Spain, Turkey, and the United States. California, Florida, and Georgia are the three largest producers of bell peppers in the U.S.

Packaging:

Fresh bell 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 bell peppers that are packaged in glass jars.

Enjoying Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are good either raw or cooked. They provide a mild and sweet taste that works perfectly as a raw snack or a topper on pizzas, salads, and sandwiches. You can also stuff these peppers prior to baking or frying. Plus, it also makes a great pickle too! Meanwhile, female bell peppers are sweeter and best eaten raw while male bell peppers are best grilled or cooked.

Storage:

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 1-2 weeks. You may also marinate peppers in olive oil to extend its shelf life for up to 1 month. 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 6 months 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. Fully cooked bell peppers usually last 3-5 days while pickled bell peppers can last for 1 year.

Cooking:

Cooking bell peppers amplify its tenderness and natural sweetness. They can also provide a little smoky flavor when grilled or broiled. They make a wonderful accompaniment to pork roasts, grilled steaks, meatloaf, roasted chickens, and more! You can even top this on sandwiches, tacos, burritos, or hot dogs. And the best part is, you don’t even need an oven or grill to enjoy cooked bell peppers. Simply sauté them in olive oil, using a skillet or cast iron under high heat, and turn it frequently until the skin starts to blister and turn brown. Then, add in your favorite seasonings, lower the heat, cover the pan, and let it cook for another minute. Serve warm and enjoy!

Nutrition:

Raw bell pepper is composed of 92% water, 3% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and 1% fat.

  • Carbohydrates: Bell pepper is naturally low in calories, which are primarily composed of water and carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are mostly sugars, such as fructose and glucose, since they’re the ones that give these bell peppers their sweet taste.
  • Fiber: Bell pepper contains small amounts of fiber, accounting for 2% by weight. Still, it makes a decent source of fiber.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Bell pepper is an excellent source of vitamins C, B6, K1, E, and A. As a matter of fact, one medium-sized bell pepper gives 169% and one large-sized gives more than 300% of RDI for vitamin C, making this fruit one of the richest dietary sources of this nutrient. It’s also a good plant-based source of potassium and folate. 
  • Antioxidants: Bell pepper is loaded with antioxidants. These include the following: Capsanthin, violaxanthin, lutein, quercetin, and luteolin.

Nutritional Benefits:

  • Bell pepper promotes weight loss because of its high water content. 
  • The high levels of vitamin C also 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, bell peppers can help control the pain.
  • The high levels of vitamin K1, which is also known as phylloquinone, contributes to bone health while reducing the formation of blood clotting.
  • The high levels of vitamin E also acts as a powerful antioxidant. It plays a vital role in keeping healthy muscles and nerves.
  • The high levels of vitamin A and lutein promotes healthy vision. It helps in preventing cancer too.
  • Potassium and quercetin improves heart health while folate improves our body’s function. Folate is especially important to consume during pregnancy.

When Are Bell Peppers in Season in Texas?

To find out when Bell 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.

Nutrition

DV%

  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 46.2 2%
  • Carbs: 9.4g 3%
  • Sugar: 6.3g
  • Fiber: 3.1g 13%
  • Protein: 1.5g 3%
  • Fat: 0.4g 1%
  • Saturated Fat: 0g 0%
  • Trans Fat 0g 0%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 6mg 0%
  • Vitamin C 190mg 317%
  • Vitamin A 4666IU 93%
  • Calcium 10.4mg 1%
  • Iron 0.6mg 4%
  • Potassium 314mg 9%
  • Vitamin E 2.4mg 12%
  • Vitamin K 7.3mcg 9%
  • Vitamin B6 0.4mg 22%
  • Folate 68.5mcg 17%
  • Magnesium 17.9mg 4%
  • Phosphorus 38.7mg 4%
  • Zinc 0.4mg 2%

Seasonality

When are Bell Peppers in season in Texas?

  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec

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