Peppers, sweet or hot, are packed full of great nutrition and are extremely versatile ingredients. Bell peppers are a favorite pepper for many and appeal to a wide range of people because, while they still have a bite, they are much sweeter since they lack capsaicin (compound responsible for the "heat" in hot peppers like jalapeno and Serrano).
Bell peppers come in a rainbow of colors from green to red to even cream colored or purple. The color of a pepper determines its level of maturity/ripeness, flavor, and nutrient content. The longer a bell pepper matures, the sweeter and milder it becomes. For example, a red bell pepper is simply a matured green bell pepper. This is why red peppers are sweeter than green.
Peppers in general are excellent sources of vitamin A and C which are antioxidants that support immune function, may reduce inflammation, and can help prevent cancer and other diseases. However, red bell peppers really pack a punch when it comes to these vitamins and have 9 times MORE vitamin A and 2 times MORE vitamin C than green bell peppers! Don’t rule out green bell peppers though; they still provide over 200% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C. Take a look at the nutrition facts below comparing green, red, and yellow bell peppers and you’ll see how the vitamin content varies widely based on the color and maturity of the pepper.
Pick Your Own Peppers
Want to grow your own peppers at home? Good news, they’re easy to grow and a favorite for many gardeners!
- Peppers grow best in warm weather after the threat of frost has passed and temperatures stay above 50 degrees at night (generally late May to early June are ideal planting times).
- Peppers can be planted in pots or in the ground. If planting in the ground, place seeds 14-18 inches apart.
- Fertilize the soil and apply supplemental fertilizer, as needed, as they start to grow.
- Water plants regularly, keeping them moist. Watering is especially needed during our 100 degree weeks in July!
When you’re ready to harvest, cut peppers off the vine to avoid damaging the plant. Bell peppers are often harvested when they are green but if you want sweeter peppers, leave them on the vine to ripen; they will eventually turn red if left to mature.
Now that you’ve got an endless supply of peppers growing in your backyard (or purchased from a local farmers market or grocery store), it’s time to get cooking! Peppers go great in a wide variety of recipes and add a pop of color to any dish. Serve them raw, roasted, sautéed, or grilled. Try this fun twist on Philly Cheese Steaks for a new way to serve bell peppers; it’s sure to be a new family favorite!
Philly Cheese-Stuffed Peppers
Recipe Adapted from: Peace+Love+LowCarb
1 pkg (6oz) thinly sliced deli roast beef*
4 slices reduced-fat provolone cheese
4 medium bell peppers, any color
1 large onion
1 pkg (8oz) sliced mushrooms
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400° F. Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the ribs and seeds. Reserve tops.
- Dice reserved tops of peppers and onion. Over medium-high heat, sauté pepper tops, onion, and mushrooms with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper until vegetables start to become tender and onions translucent.
- Slice roast beef into thin strips and add to the onion/mushroom/pepper mixture. Let cook for 5-10 minutes, or until heated through.
- Line the bottom of each bell pepper with ½ slice of provolone cheese. You can also use shredded provolone cheese.
- Fill fully with roast beef mixture.
- Top each pepper with other ½ slice of provolone cheese.
- Bake 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and peppers are tender.
Notes: Green bell peppers are traditionally used in Philly Cheese Steaks, but any color pepper (red, green, yellow, and/or orange) tastes great with this recipe.
For a printer friendly recipe, click here.
*Try to purchase deli meats that do not have added preservatives, nitrates, nitrites, or other unnecessary ingredients. Hormel Natural Choice and Applegate Naturals both have natural deli roast beef and are available locally in stores.
Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network, Pepper Newsletter, http://www.panen.org/snap/peppers