Peppers
Peppers, both sweet and hot, are
easy to grow.
See more pictures of peppers
and pepper recipes
.

Pepper plants can be an attractive addition to your garden, and they'll provide both sweet and hot peppers for your salads and stir-fries. In this article, we'll talk about growing peppers, selecting and serving peppers, and the health benefits of peppers.

Colorful ornamental peppers last longer than flowers and add festive color and texture to beds and borders. Plants range from six inches to several feet tall and have a tidy growth habit. The glossy fruits grow from an inch or less in length to more than six inches and can be pointy, round, or blocky. They have bright colors and waxy coats. Foliage may be green or purple, and peppers range from cream through yellow, orange, red, purple, and brownish-black.

Common Name: Peppers
Scientific Name: Capsicum annuum

Hardiness: Tender (will die at first frost)

In the next section, we'll show you how to grow sweet and hot peppers in your own vegetable garden.

Want even more information about sweet and hot peppers? Try these links:

Growing Peppers

Peppers, both sweet and hot, are easy to grow. Grow peppers during warm weather in full sun, after the danger of frost has passed. Start pepper seeds indoors eight weeks before planting. Seeds germinate in 15 to 20 days at 75 degrees F.

Fertilize the soil and give plants ample space. Pinch the central tip to promote side branches. Do not let young plants become stressed by cold weather or drought.

The glossy fruits grow from an inch or less in length to more than six inches and can be pointy, round, or blocky. They have bright colors and waxy coats and range from cream through yellow, orange, red, purple, and brownish-black.

It's fun to see colorful peppers as pot plants. They work well in flower borders and vegetable garden rows.

Harvesting Peppers

Peppers are usually harvested when green. If you want sweet red peppers, leave the sweet green peppers on the vine until they ripen and turn red. Cut the peppers off the vine; if you pull them off, half the plant may come up with the fruit. Hot peppers can irritate the skin, so wear gloves when you pick them.

Peppers
Both hot and sweet peppers come in many varieties.

Types of Sweet Peppers
  • Better Belle, harvest at 65 days, produces peppers that are large, thick-walled, and green.
  • Bell Boy, harvest at 70 days, are a large deep green turning to red.
  • Golden Bell, harvest at 68 days, are a light green that turns golden yellow.
  • Pimento, harvest at 78 days, are heart-shaped and sweet.
Types of Hot Peppers
  • Hungarian Yellow Wax, harvest at 65 days, matures to red in color and is medium-hot.
  • Red Chili, harvest at 80 days, produces peppers that are 21/2 inches long and very hot.
In the next section, we'll teach you how to select and serve great-tasting peppers.

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Selecting Peppers

Now that you have a garden full of peppers, it's time to harvest and serve them. With all peppers, look for a glossy sheen and no shriveling, cracks, or soft spots. Bell peppers should feel heavy for their size, indicating fully developed walls.

Sweet peppers have no capsaicin, hence no heat. They do have a pleasant bite, though. Bell peppers are most common. Green peppers are simply red or yellow peppers that haven't ripened. As they mature, they turn various shades until they become completely red. Once ripe, they are more perishable, so they carry a premium price. But many people favor the milder taste that these varieties provide. Cubanelles, Italian frying peppers, are a bit more intense in flavor and are preferred for roasting or sauteing.

Peppers
Bell peppers are perfect for grilling.

Hot chili peppers, or chilies (the Mexican word for peppers) are popular worldwide. Ripe red ones are usually hotter than green ones. Still, shape is a better indicator of heat than color. Rule of thumb: the smaller, the hotter.

For example, the poblano, or ancho, chile is fatter than most peppers and only mildly hot. Anaheim, or canned "green chilies," are also fairly mild. Jalapeno is a popular moderately hot pepper. Among the hottest are cayenne, serrano, and tiny, fiery habanero.

Store sweet peppers in a plastic bag in your refrigerator's crisper drawer. Green ones stay firm for a week; other colors go soft in three or four days. Hot peppers do better refrigerated in a perforated paper bag.

Preparing and Serving Peppers

To cool the fire of hot peppers, cut away the inside white membrane and discard the seeds. Wash hands, utensils, and cutting boards with soap and water after handling them and use gloves to prevent the oils from irritating your hands. Avoid touching your eyes while handling peppers.

Bell peppers are delicious raw. They develop a stronger flavor when cooked; overcooked, they are bitter.

What to do if you swallow more than you can handle? Don't drink water; it spreads the fire around your mouth, making the heat more intolerable. Research from the Taste and Smell Clinic in Washington, D.C., has revealed that a dairy protein, casein, literally washes away capsaicin, quenching the inferno; so milk is your best bet. If you don't have any milk on hand, eat a slice of bread.

When that healthy dish needs a little extra color and punch, add interest to your menu with a wide variety of peppers to fit every taste and heat tolerance.

Sure, peppers look and taste great, but they're also good for you. In the next section, we'll talk about the health benefits of peppers.

Want even more information about sweet and hot peppers? Try these links:

Health Benefits of Peppers

Peppers don't have that spicy image for nothing. This vegetable is an excellent way to spice up otherwise bland dishes. Peppers come in a beautiful array of colors and shapes. They add flavor, color, and crunch to many low-calorie dishes.

Health Benefits of Peppers

Peppers
All peppers are a good source of
vitamins A, C, and K.

All peppers are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, but red peppers are simply bursting with them. Antioxidant vitamins A and C help to prevent cell damage, cancer, and diseases related to aging, and they support immune function. They also reduce inflammation like that found in arthritis and asthma. Vitamin K promotes proper blood clotting, strengthens bones, and helps protect cells from oxidative damage.

Red peppers are a good source of the carotenoid called lycopene, which is earning a reputation for helping to prevent prostate cancer as well as cancer of the bladder, cervix, and pancreas. Beta-cryptoxanthin, another carotenoid in red peppers, is holding promise for helping to prevent lung cancer related to smoking and secondhand smoke.

Besides being rich in phytochemicals, peppers provide a decent amount of fiber.

Hot peppers' fire comes from capsaicin, which acts on pain receptors, not taste buds, in our mouths. Capsaicin predominates in the white membranes of peppers, imparting its "heat" to seeds as well. The capsaicin in hot peppers has been shown to decrease blood cholesterol and triglycerides, boost immunity, and reduce the risk of stomach ulcers. It used to be thought that hot peppers aggravated ulcers. Instead, they may help kill bacteria in the stomach that can lead to ulcers.

Both hot and sweet peppers contain substances that have been shown to increase the body's heat production and oxygen consumption for about 20 minutes after eating. This is great news; it means your body is burning extra calories, which helps weight loss.

Red Sweet Bell Pepper, Fresh
Serving Size: 1/2 cup sliced

Calories 12
Fat 0 g
Saturated Fat <1 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbohydrate 3 g
Protein <1 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Sodium 1 mg
Vitamin A:
green pepper 170 IU
red pepper 1,440 IU
Vitamin C:
green pepper 37 mg
red pepper 87 mg
Iron <1 mg
Carotenoids:
green 268 micrograms
red 1,146

Hot Chili Pepper, Fresh
Serving Size: 1 pepper

Calories 18
Fat <1 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbohydrate 4 g
Protein 1 g
Dietary Fiber <1 g
Sodium 4 g
Vitamin A:
green pepper 538 IU
red pepper 428 IU
Vitamin C 64 mg

Want even more information about sweet and hot peppers? Try these links:
  • Bell Pepper Garnishes: Learn to make fun and attractive garnishes with bell peppers.
  • Nutrition: Find out how tomatoes fit in with your overall nutrition plans.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.