The weather’s warm, the sun is shining and if you take a walk around the local farmer’s market or grocery store, you will see it’s also the time of the year that all kinds of peppers are beginning to be harvested. Sweet bell peppers come in an array of colors, ranging from the “unripe” green variety to yellow, orange and red. As the color changes, so does the sweetness of the pepper. And while all sweet bell peppers are a rich source of Vitamin C, each color has different amounts of antioxidants called carotenoids that can provide protection from oxidative damage on a cellular level. Bell peppers can be used in almost any dish to add flavor without salt; they can also increase absorption of iron from foods like beans, so are helpful in preventing anemia for plant-based consumers.
The internal part of a pepper contains seeds and a white membrane. According to the American Chemistry Society, the membrane contains the capsaicin, or the part of the pepper that brings on the heat. While not actually being “hot” in temperature, capsaicin is perceived by our taste buds as hot and sends signals to the brain that simulate warning signals similar to what we would feel with extremely acidic, bitter, boiling hot or high temperature foods that can cause damage to our body. Milk or other dairy products help to calm this feeling by adhering to the chemical in capsaicin that we feel as hot and washing it out of our mouths (or off our hands!). Water, on the other hand only provides cooling sensations momentarily, as it simply re-distributes the capsaicin in the mouth.
So what are examples of hot peppers? Here’s a list for you to explore:
Shishito Peppers (one of my favorite—just roast and enjoy!)
Poblano Peppers (called Ancho Peppers when dried)
Peppers are great for adding color and flavor to all kinds of recipes. Here’s a link to a detailed guide for sweet to hot peppers to use this growing season!