Red bell peppers are commonly a sweet pepper named for its bell-like shape. Although referred to as a vegetable, the pepper is actually a fruit, with a glossy red-colored firm skin. Inside its thick, red flesh is an inner cavity with edible bitter seeds and a white spongy core. Bell peppers are not 'hot'. They contain a recessive gene that eliminates capsaicin, the compound responsible for the 'hotness' found in other peppers. It has a tangy, sweet flavor due to its increased sugar content because it is at the bell pepper's ripest stage.
Red bell peppers are grown in California (summer season) and Mexico (winter season). They are available year-round.
Peppers are self-pollinated and consequently will breed if seeds are saved from this year's garden for planting in next year's garden. Although an occasional cross-pollination will occur, this is generally not a problem.
Containing two very powerful antioxidants, carotenoids such as beta-carotene, Red peppers are known to help prevent or reduce some of the symptoms caused by free radicals. They are also a very rich source of vitamins A and C.
Red peppers can be prepared raw, cooked, roasted or pickled. Slice peppers and layer with squash and tomato, then bake into a gratin. Roast, peel and deseed, then add to grilled sandwiches or green salads. Finely dice and combine with diced onions and black beans for a side salad. Puree roasted red peppers with garbanzo beans and tahini for a flavored hummus. Add diced peppers to frittata. Saute peppers with onions and pork, cover with vegetable stock and cook down into stew. Bell peppers will keep, refrigerated, for 1-2 weeks.