Hello my dear readers,
Ready to discover another great ingredient of our cuisines?
Today let’s discover the peppers.
The pepper, which Leonardo Da Vinci used dried and crushed, for the colors of its frescoes, belongs to the Solanaceae family, family which also includes the plants of tomatoes, potatoes and aubergines.
The pepper is originally from the America (Mexico) but is currently grown all over the world. It was introduced to Europe by the Spaniards in the second half of the 16th century and had immediate success.
The pepper belongs to the Capsicum genus and to the Solanacee family, exactly like the chili pepper.
The most cultivated variety is Capsicum Annuum.
In any case, it is a characteristic vegetable of the summer season and cultivated for centuries all over the world, from Europe to China and Peru: this explains why it is present in the traditional recipes of many countries.
To develop properly, the pepper plant needs fertile soil and a warm climate; sowing takes place at the end of February and the fruits are ripe in June-July. If you plant the seeds in a different period, you have an extra seasonal harvest.
In addition to the well-known sweet pepper, the genus includes various types of spicy and ornamental peppers.
The pepper varieties are distinguished by the particular characteristics of the fruit which can be flavour: sweet or spicy, shape: small or large in volume, can be elongated, bell-shaped, round or slightly quadrangular, and color, which can vary from yellow of the most tender and juicy ones, to the red of the peppers with a crunchy, thick and sugary pulp, to the green colour of those collected before full maturity, which would become red or yellow, depending on the variety of cultivated pepper, if left attached to the plant until to their complete maturation.
But the most popular plants for fresh consumption are simply divided into sweet and spicy, and among the first we distinguish:
- Quadrangular shape probably the most cultivated;
- Spinning top, for pickles, but which becomes spicy if it is not picked when the fruit is very tender
The spicy varieties, which as is known, are preferably consumed dried and for seasonings, are richer in vitamins than the others, so much so that they reach values 300 times greater than each of the other cultivated vegetables.
Given the multiplicity of species, it can happen that a specimen of a theoretically sweet variety become spicy, so it is good to never forget to taste a piece before using it.
In Europe the vegetable was called with the botanical term Capsicum, which has two possible derivations: it can derive from the Latin word capsa, which means “box”, alluding to the characteristic shape of the fruit which is a hollow and empty berry inside, or from the Greek word “kapto”, which means “to bite greedily”.
Use of the peppers in the kitchen
One of the best conservable vegetables, pepper is a symbol of Mediterranean cuisine, all the populations that overlook the sea know countless recipes: raw, roasted, peeled, fried or stewed but never boiled.
The consumption of the pepper can be difficult for some people who find it heavy and indigestible; this is explained on the one hand by the presence of cellulose on the peel and on the other hand by the fact that the vegetable contains solanine. This substance is sometimes rejected by the body. Peppers with lower solanine levels are those cultivated in the summer with exposure to the sun and which are yellow or red colored; on the contrary, the green specimens contain a greater percentage of solanine.
The peppers can be cooked in various ways: au gratin, stuffed, roasted on the grill, fried or eaten raw in salads, with its multiple colors it is a real hymn to joy and a temptation of the palate.
When eaten raw, in some cases, in order to prevent them from becoming too heavy, it is recommended to remove the peel after having cooked the vegetable for a few minutes in boiling water and having passed it under cold water.
Stuffed peppers are very popular especially those filled with ricotta, salt, olive oil and chopped parsley and mint.
Other very tasty recipes are the skewers of pepper slices and chunks of chicken and the grilled fish and red peppers.
Finally, you can also fry the peppers, choosing the longest varieties suitable for that cooking method.
Nutritional and beneficial properties of peppers
The pepper is a vegetable whose consumption is recommended during the summer season: in fact it is composed of 92% of water and contains a large amount of mineral salts, especially potassium, phosphorus, calcium, iron and magnesium.
In addition, its percentage of vitamin C is four times that of citrus fruits if consumed raw, so as to favour the absorption of iron, the development of muscles and the body’s resistance to infections, with antioxidant and immune action, maintaining the consistency of collagen in tissues such as skin, muscles and tendons.
Just think that 50 grams of red peppers equals 75% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.
These vegetables are also very rich in vitamins E, B, J and K, fiber and vitamin A: in this way peppers fight the action of free radicals, prevent cellular aging, cardiovascular diseases and the appearance of tumors and allow you to stay in shape.
The other nutrients contained in peppers help strengthen blood vessels, improve anti-infectious action and stimulate appetite.
These vegetables are a good source of mineral salts and have a rather high content of fibers … all characteristics that make them diuretic and purifying, thirst-quenching and remineralizing, ideal therefore in the period summer to combat the heat and restore the body’s hydro-saline balance.
Flavonoids and capsaicin make the pepper a vegetable useful in fighting heart disease and excessive accumulation of cholesterol in the blood, while, thanks to luteonin, a flavonoid also contained in fennel and celery, has significant anti-inflammatory properties, protecting the cells of the brain, slowing down aging and improving memory and clarity.
Finally, especially in red pepper, there are high levels of carotene and capsaicin: the first substance helps to purify the body, with protective properties of the skin and eyesight, while the second has antibacterial, anti-tumour, analgesic and anti-diabetes properties.
The considerable quantity of water and fiber determines a potential, mild, laxative effect.
The low calories (only 20 kcal for 100g) make it a recommended food for low-calorie diets giving a sense of satiety.
How to store the peppers
When you buy the peppers, check that they are shiny, firm, free of bruises, with smooth and well-stretched skin, with a well-attached and taut petiole.
The raw ones can be kept in the fridge, in the vegetable compartment, for 3-4 days, or they are excellent in oil or in vinegar.
Notoriously, bell pepper can create some digestion difficulties; for this reason, it is not recommended for those with gastric problems, especially if they persist despite the elimination of the peel, i.e. the film that covers the fruit.
It is also not recommended for consumption by the children, as the capsaicin contained in peppers irritates the mucous membranes.
As happens in most cases, pepper has beneficial properties but also involves risks associated with its ingestion, therefore a varied and balanced diet is recommended to make the best use of the nutritional qualities of this food.
Thank you all for reading.
And if you would like to discover more about our food, you may enjoy my previous posts
Wish you a wonderful day!
And please stay at home and stay safe!