By Maria Price
This time of year yields most of our pepper harvest. The plants will continue to produce until the first frost but they may not reach their mature size as the nights continue to get colder.
I grow many varieties of sweet bell peppers and chili peppers. Chili peppers range from mild to very hot; Anaheim peppers are mild tasting, Poblano peppers are a little hotter, Serrano and jalapeno are even hotter.
All types of peppers can range in color from green to fire engine red. I like putting sweet red bell peppers in salads not only for their taste but for the beauty of the brilliant red.
Besides being pretty additions to salads and dishes, sweet peppers are filled with nutrients that have been shown to battle cataracts and heart disease. Peppers are some of the most nutrient-dense vegetables, especially when it comes to vitamin C and beta carotene. Generally, the redder the pepper, the more beta-carotene it contains. Beta carotene is important for keeping your immune system healthy. It’s also a potent antioxidant. If you’re not big on hot peppers, you can certainly eat more sweet peppers to get similar health benefits.
I grow different types of bell peppers: green, red, yellow, and purple. ‘Lunchbox’ snack peppers are red or yellow with an exceptionally sweet flavor. Corno di Toros are known as bull’s horn peppers and are great for sauteing.
Hot peppers have been prized around the globe for their healing power. Hot chilis have been used as natural remedies for coughs, colds, sinusitis, and bronchitis. My mother is 97 and swears that hot peppers have led to her longevity. There is some evidence that they also help lower LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Capsaicin is the active compound in hot peppers responsible for their therapeutic effects. It is similar to a drug called guaifenesin, which is used in many over-the-counter cold remedies like Robitussin as a decongestant and expectorant.
Peppers can be frozen in freezer bags directly out of the garden. You can chop them up as they partially defrost and use them cooked or raw. Use your pepper harvest to make salsa. Chop 2 tomatoes, 2 jalapenos or serranos, 1/4 cup onion, 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, and add the juice of a freshly squeezed lime. Mix well and enjoy.