How Chili Peppers Work

Selecting, Storing and Preparing Chili Peppers

A pepper's heat comes from its membrane.
A pepper's heat comes from its membrane.
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When selecting chili peppers, choose ones with bright, vivid colors and firm skin. Avoid any with wrinkled, soft or bruised areas.

You can safely eat chili peppers before they're fully ripe -- the longer they ripen, the hotter they get. Buying red peppers that still exhibit some green coloring indicates that they're not fully ripe, but peppers ripen even after leaving the vine. Chili peppers have a long shelf life, and you can store unwashed ripe peppers in the refrigerator for several weeks.

The hottest chili peppers can be topically toxic, so remove contact lenses, and wear protective eyewear and thin vinyl gloves when working with hot chili peppers. Avoid touching your face, eyes and nose while working, and wash your hands immediately after touching the peppers.

To reduce the heat level of any pepper, remove the membranes and seeds before slicing or dicing the pepper. To remove seeds and membranes while keeping the pepper intact, carefully cut and remove the top of the pepper. When separating the top from the body of the pepper, try to remove as many seeds as possible. Scrape the inside of the pepper with a spoon to remove the rest of the seeds and the membrane.

Nothing compares to the first taste of a silky, smoky roasted pepper. To roast peppers, place them on a baking sheet in an oven heated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius). Check the peppers every 15 to 20 minutes, and turn them when the top has charred and blistered. Repeat until all sides are charred. Place the peppers in a brown paper bag and close it to allow the steam to loosen the skin. . After 15 minutes, remove the peppers from the bag, peel away the blistered skin and enjoy.

You can preserve peppers by canning or drying them, but the simplest method is to freeze them. Place fresh slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, and place the baking sheet in the freezer until the peppers are frozen. Pack frozen peppers in a zipper-seal bag or vacuum seal and freeze them for up to a year.

Have you ever considered growing your own chili peppers? If so, keep reading to get some gardening tips.