July is the ideal time to enjoy the outdoors, fire up the grill, and take advantage of the abundance of fresh summer veggies. Inspired by shish kabobs and summer barbecues, we’re celebrating bell peppers as our vegetable of the month!
Raw, grilled or sautéed, peppers are tasty vegetables that are perfect for all of your summer get-togethers. Native to Mexico, Central and parts of South America, peppers can now be found in regions of every continent (except Antarctica). The name “pepper” dates back to 1493 when Columbus returned to Europe with hot, dried peppers from the West Indies. Europeans were surprised to taste something that rivaled the spicy kick of black pepper, and used the name to describe these unrelated vegetables.
From the mouth-on-fire habanero peppers to the mild and sweet Italian peppers, there are over 20 varieties of the Capsicum genus. Bell peppers alone come in seven colors from yellow to purple, and even black. Although they are all of the same family, ripeness is what determines the color and sweetness of these vegetables. All bell peppers are slightly bitter when they are immature and still green. Gradually, they become sweeter as they change color and ripen on the vine to full maturity. Red peppers are the sweetest of all the different cultivars.
Bell peppers are high in vitamins A, B6 and C, as well as rich in anti-oxidants, carotenoids, anti-inflammatories, fiber, potassium, and magnesium; they average 28 calories and less than 1 gram of fat per cup.
Peppers should be selected based on hue and firmness. The color should be vibrant. Avoid any with soft spots, blemishes, or with a withered or mushy texture.
To prepare, wash your peppers under cold water before cutting. Although you may want to core this veggie first, it’s easier to cut it in half first and then clean out the core. Place each half face down and then cut it into strips or smaller squares (at least 1 inch if you’re making shish kabobs on the grill).