Bell pepper, a carnival of colors

Single green bell pepper on the plant

Whether it be raw, cooked, hot or cold, savored fresh in bite-size snacks, in mixed salads or ice cream or simply baked to a golden color in the oven, bell pepper summer fruits and vegetables are easy to cook.

Quick facts on bell pepper

Production in France (1) – 16 000 tons (average 2008-2012)
Production areas in France – PACA, Aquitaine, Brittany
Availability – all year round
Main season – July to August
Average price in 2013 (2) – 3 € / kg
Household consumption in 2013 (2) – 4 lbs (1.8 kg) per household
Nutrition (3)– 3.5 oz (100 g) bell pepper is 27 kcal

Growing bell pepper

Bell pepper is an annual plant in temperate climates. The bell pepper plant can grow up to 16 or 20 inches (40 to 50 cm) tall and bears small white flowers that will transform into fruit.

All bell peppers are green at the beginning and their color changes as they ripen (red, yellow, purple and even black!).

There are three major bell pepper varieties. The square one, with thick, crunchy, fleshy walls, the rectangular one which is most often found on market stalls, and the triangular one, which isn’t so common and is either mild or slightly spicy.

Almost all the bell peppers sold on the market are grown in greenhouses, some of them heated greenhouses. Those grown in the open field are usually sold to food processing.

A little bit of history

Native to Central America where it has been domesticated and grown for thousands of years, bell pepper is actually part of… the pepper family! It was most likely grown for the first time in the Mexican isthmus where seeds over 5,000 years old have been found during archaeological research.

The XVth century is when chili (which was bred into bell pepper) spread to Europe but it took three more centuries for minds to accept it and the XVIIIth century is when cultivation really took off.

Cooking bell pepper

To select the freshest bell peppers, choose those that have taut blemish-free skin, without any wrinkles. They must feel firm and weighty.

The more mature a bell pepper, the redder. Green bell pepper is most crisp, fruity with a touch of bitterness, while red is mild and almost sweet. Yellow bell pepper is tender, mild and juicy.

Keeping bell peppers

Bell pepper keeps for up to 8 days in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator.

At room temperature, they tend to dry up and wrinkle. They keep best in an airtight plasticware, washed with the seeds removed.

Preparing bell pepper

Bell pepper can be savored in many ways: cooked, baked, marinated, sweet or salted, it blends into all sorts of dishes.

Want to add some crunchy crispiness to your starters and summer mixed salads? Add it raw! Cooked, it pairs well with zucchini and eggplant to become the legendary ratatouille.

It is often eaten stuffed in different parts of the world.

Marinated in olive oil, bell pepper will make for delicious antipasti, a starter much appreciated in Mediterranean diets.

And come barbecue season, it squeezes itself between chunks of meat or salmon kebabs.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY 2.0: Ken Cook