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Sweet Peppers

Sweet peppers refers to any of the several species and cultivars of sweet peppers in the family of nightshade (Solanaceae). Unlike the chile peppers, they do not or minimally contain capsaicin, the compound that is responsible for the pepper’s heat. Hence, they’re more noted for their “sweet” flavor. Some varieties include banana pepper, Italian long, and bell pepper. They all start as green, and they change to the brightly colored ones as they mature. Ripe pods tend to be sweeter than the unripe ones as the sugar and vitamin C content increases as they mature.

Nevertheless, these peppers have been widely used around the world. They can be eaten raw or cooked. 

Most of these fruits have been in existence roughly 8,000 years ago. They are native to Central and North America, as well as to Mexico. They were introduced to Europe and reintroduced back into North America during the 15th century. Consequently, it has later spread throughout Asia and Africa.

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

Sweet Pepper Trivia

  • Explorer Christopher Columbus, along with his troops, were the first Europeans to encounter the genus. They call them “peppers” in reference to the spicy Piper genus that we commonly know as peppercorns.
  • The Portuguese traders were the ones who introduced the genus in Asia. They promoted its commerce in the routes of the Asian spice trade.
  • One large bell pepper, a variety of sweet pepper, contains 300% of the daily required vitamin C.

Sweet Pepper Buying Guide

Sweet peppers come in several varieties that offer a wide range of sizes, colors, and flavors. Thus, it could be quite confusing to know which ones are best to buy. Below is a general buying guide to help you get started:

  • The color of sweet peppers can be from light to dark green, yellow to bright orange, and red to purple. Most peppers start as green on the plant, and they turn to their various colors as they mature. Unripe or green pods tend to be more bitter while the ripe or colored are sweeter.
  • When buying sweet peppers, it is important to choose the ones that have a firm and glossy skin. Avoid the ones that have soft spots.
  • If possible, buy organic sweet peppers. 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, peppers from farmers’ markets are better than the ones in stores. Here, the products are usually organic and you might be able to get a free taste before you buy them.

Sweet Pepper Varieties:

  • Bell Pepper (Green, Yellow, Orange, Red, Purple) – This is the most common variety of sweet pepper, though the purple ones are quite hard to find. The green ones are also less expensive compared to the colored ones because they are unripe. Green, yellow, orange, and red bell peppers all retain their color when cooked. However, the purple ones darken and they somehow become unappealing when exposed to heat. Thus, purple bell peppers are best to use raw or fresh. It doesn’t give heat at all; hence, it is rated at 0 Scoville units.
  • Sweet Cherry Pepper – This variety looks like tiny bell peppers. Likewise, they are delicious to be eaten raw, as a snack, salad toppings, or as pickles.
  • Banana Peppers or Yellow Wax Peppers – These are slender yellow peppers that are commonly used as pickles. It gives a mild heat that ranges from 0 to 500 Scoville units.
  • Carmen Italian Sweet Peppers – These peppers are sweet and fruity; they are commonly roasted to enhance their flavor as well. It gives a mild heat that ranges from 0 to 500 Scoville units.
  • Pimentos or Pimentons – These are classic red peppers that are commonly roasted to enhance their sweet flavor. It gives a mild heat that ranges from 100 to 500 Scoville units.
  • Cubanelle Peppers – These are slender peppers that start as pale green and turn into rich red color as they ripen. Most of these peppers are sold unripe. They are commonly roasted, stuffed, or used as an aromatic to some dishes. It gives a mild heat that ranges from 100 to 1000 Scoville units.
  • Italian Frying Peppers – As the name suggests, these peppers are best to be sliced lengthwise or julienned, and lightly fried in olive oil. They can be eaten as an appetizer or a topping to Italian sandwiches. It gives a mild heat that ranges from 100 to 1000 Scoville units.
  • Ancho Chiles – These are dried poblano peppers that are commonly combined with Mulato and Pasilla peppers to form the holy trinity of peppers, which are used to make mole sauces. This pepper variety also falls on both sweet and chile pepper. It gives a mild heat that ranges from 1,000 to 1,500 Scoville units.
  • Anaheim Chile –  It is one of the most common peppers in the United States. Commonly used either ripe or unripe, it gives a mild heat that ranges from 500 to 2,500 Scoville units.

Sweet Pepper Production & Farming in Texas

Sweet peppers are heat-loving or warm-season crops that thrive in most Texas areas. Nearly all pepper plants produce high yields even with a little effort. But, some sweet peppers are temperamental when it comes to setting their fruits. Night temperatures outside the range of 60 to 75ºF and day temperatures above 90ºF can reduce the set of pods. Nonetheless, they can withstand hot summer months and some can even tolerate mild frost. If you have access to a greenhouse or are able to sow the seeds indoors while it’s still cold, you may start growing them ahead of time. But, they’re usually planted from mid-March through mid-July, when the soil temperature is at least 70ºF. They also thrive in loamy, sandy, heavy, and well-drained soil. They also need at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.

Nevertheless, it is important to harvest them continuously for the plant to reproduce. Use a sharp scissor when cutting branches and harvesting peppers as hand-picking can easily damage the plants.

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 sweet 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 sweet and chili peppers, accounting for more than 70% of world production. Mexico and Indonesia rank next. Other major producers include Spain, Turkey, and the United States. 

Packaging:

Raw sweet 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 their byproducts, which are commonly packaged in glass jars, cans, bottles, pouches, or containers.

Eating Sweet Peppers

Sweet peppers are best eaten raw. They make a wonderful, quick, and healthy snack. You can also slice them nicely and put them raw on salads, sandwiches, and more. Pickled sweet peppers are also a good way to enjoy their natural crunch and flavor, along with a cool and tangy brine.

Storage:

Raw sweet 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 a week or two. You may also marinate them 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 them raw. 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. Meanwhile, you can also check out specific storage tips and shelf life of each pepper variety here at our Texas Real Food Promptuary.

Cooking:

While sweet peppers are best eaten raw, they are also popularly cooked. Exposing them to heat enhances their sweetness, while adding a bit of smokiness to its flavor profile. They can be stuffed with meat and/or cheese, which are then baked, fried, or grilled. Meanwhile, you can also roast, sauté, or add them on stir-fries. 

Nutrition:

Surprisingly, sweet peppers contain a lot of vitamin C. Some even provide a lot more than oranges! And although we don’t eat peppers in large quantities, they’re still a significant source of this vitamin. In addition, they’re also rich in vitamin A and red chile peppers are also full of beta-carotene.

Moreover, sweet peppers contain minimal amounts of the substance capsaicin, which gives these peppers their heat. Capsaicin has been proven to kill cancer cells efficiently. It also has positive effects on blood cholesterol and it boosts our immune system to help our bodies fight against inflammation. Furthermore, it also contributes to weight loss as it speeds up our metabolism.

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 Fact 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%
  • Manganese 0.2mg 8%
  • Copper 0mg 1%
  • Zinc 0.4mg 2%

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