(Capsicum annuum var. annuum — Family Solanaceae)
Bell pepper, sweet pepper, capsicum, pimento, chilli peppers, mango pepper
Strictly speaking, the bell pepper is a berry. At one time, only green was available; but now other colours are becoming more common, including yellow, red, orange, white, purple, black, and salmon.
Whatever the colour, two basic features remain the same: shape and pungency.
The wide, squatty bell has prominent lobes at its stem end; while the other end has large knobs, almost like a MacIntosh apple, but much more prominent.
Bell peppers are usually about four inches tall and almost as wide. All unripe peppers start off green and taste a little bitter; but, as the ripening goes on, not only does the colour change, but so does the flavour becoming, more sweet and less bitter.
As with all peppers, the sweet pepper originated in Central America and then taken to Spain in 1493 by Columbus.
Among the important producing countries today are the US, Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Israel, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and the former Yugoslavia, as well as a great many African, Asian, and Central and South American countries.
Mexico produces more than 53,000 tons of peppers annually; but only a tiny portion is the sweet bell pepper, and nearly all of that is exported to the US.
Originally cultivated solely as an ornamental plant, the bell pepper came to be used as a vegetable much later in it history. Only at the beginning of the 20th century did intensive breeding trials result in the development of the relatively mild, more or less capsaicin-free, large-fruited varieties that we have today.
Until then, varieties consisted exclusively of burning-hot fruits. With one exception, all other varieties have developed from intensive breeding trials carried out since the 1980s, many of them by the Dutch.
That one exception is the Hungarian bell pepper developed in Hungary about 100 years ago. It has a pleasantly sweet, but hot, flavour and, judging by its appearance alone, can be mistaken for a cross between a bell pepper and a ribbed tomato.
Sweet peppers are very high in vitamin C, containing about three times as much as that found in an orange. One medium sweet red pepper contains more than three times the RDA of vitamin C.
Green peppers contain less than the red, but still are a good source.
Sweet red peppers are also an excellent source of vitamin A, having ten times more than that found in sweet green peppers.
Both the red and green are good sources of dietary fiber, folate, and potassium, as well as flavonoids and phytochemicals.
Some varieties of sweet pepper include the following:
is one of the largest bell peppers, growing to seven inches long and four inches in diameter. It is excellent for growing in cooler climates.
has a mild flavour.
Calwonder Wonder Early
has a mild flavour and crops well over long periods. It comes in red, green or yellow.
Charleston or Carliston
is a thin-fleshed, delicate bell pepper from Turkey. It accounts for one-fourth of the country’s total production. It is an elongated and pointed bell pepper, almost indistinguishable from the fiery hot peppers; so care must be taken when tasting them.
looks very much like an ordinary bell pepper, but it is hot.
is usually sold when it is a light green, but it ripens to orange and then later red. It is a mild-flavoured pepper that is similar in size to the Italian Sheppard, but has no shoulders at the stem.
is an early variety and resistant to Tobacco Mosaic Virus.
Italian Sheppard (Bull’s Horn)
pepper is tapered to a point looking like a bull’s horn. It is about six or seven inches long and about two inches in diameter. This is the best roasting pepper as its flesh is thick and sturdy.
pepper looks like a little red pumpkin, about three inches tall and six inches wide. Its thick walls and squat shape makes it perfect for stuffing.
is compact and ideal for growing in containers.
Sweet Banana (Sweet Hungarian Wax)
is about seven inches long, tapering to a point, with square shoulders at the stem. This is a transparent yellow pepperthat can be very sweet, making it perfect for salads or pizzas.
is an unusual chocolate-brown colour and good when frozen whole.
was named for its similarity to the beefsteak tomato, and has the highest vitamin C content of all fresh vegetables. There are also yellow varieties, which are especially valued by the food-processing industry because of their intense flavour.