Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Vegetables : Peppers

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For years we've all been told that to eat a healthy diet we should concentrate on adding more colour to our plates.  Eating peppers is a great way to do that since just the simple bell pepper alone comes in various colours.  However you should be aware that whereas the yellow, orange and red bell peppers are all ripe versions, the green bell pepper is green only because it's unripe.  This can make it indigestible to some people.

Health benefits of Peppers

Peppers, like most vegetables, have a lot of health benefits.
  • Hot peppers contain capsaicin, a substance that boosts the metabolism and keeps immature fat cells from developing into full-fledged ones.  This can help you loose weight.  A recent study found that some sweet peppers contain a compound called CH-19 which resembles capsaicin and provides a similar metabolic effect without the burning side effects.
  • A study in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that adding hot chillis to daily meals may protect against the buildup of cholesterol in the blood - another benefit of capsaicin.
  • Half a cup of chopped sweet peppers has almost double your daily needs of vitamin C.  Vitamin C is a crucial nutrient that protects your body from inflammation.  Researchers at the University of Manchester found that people low in vitamin C had more than a three-fold increased risk of getting inflammatory arthritis compared to those with higher levels. 
  • A sliced red pepper will give you about a third of your daily carotenoid requirement.  Carotenoids can interfere with estrogen's signalling ability and reduce the risk of breast cancer.
  • Peppers also contain lots of B vitamins.  One cup of chopped banana pepper has 36% of your daily vitamin B6 and 10% of folate.  Red peppers contain 35% of B6 and 7% of folate, and yellow peppers contain 20% of B6 and 10% of folate.  Researchers have found that the higher the dietary intake of both folate and B6, the lower the risk of death from stroke, coronary heart disease and total cardiovascular disease.

There are many different varieties of peppers ranging from very mild to very hot.  Here you will find a great article that identifies all the various peppers above and gives you a short description of the heat level of each and how they are used.

How to grow peppers

Spacing : In a square foot garden you need one 12 inch square for each pepper plant.

The main thing to know about peppers is that they love a hot climate.  You want to plant them in full sun as they need lots of it to give you a good harvest.   Here are a few videos on how to plant and care for peppers.

This video shows you how to grow peppers from seed

This one shows you how to grow peppers in pots.

Once you have a good harvest of peppers, there are many ways you can preserve them.

In many sunny countries like Spain, Italy and Mexico, small peppers are strung together and dried in the sun for later use.

Peppers can also be sliced and frozen.  You don't need to blanch peppers.  Just chop or slice, put into a freezer bag, and then freeze.  If you don't tend to use a lot in your recipes, you can always flash freeze the peppers first.

How to Flash Freeze

To flash freeze, just spread on a cookie sheet and freeze so the pieces freeze individually, then put into a freezer bag and freeze.

When you go to take some out you will be able to just remove as much as you need without having to deal with a frozen lump.

Having a few pepper plants in your garden will add colour to both your meals and your garden.  Here you can see exactly what I mean in this inspiration garden from  garden-photos-com.photoshelter.com

"Almost any garden, if you see it at just the right moment, can be confused with paradise."
                                                                                                                            - Henry Mitchell

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