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Peppers are a great vegetable for the season

Hot peppers typically need a longer growing season than bell peppers.

Peppers.jpg
Green bell peppers may be eaten fresh or frozen to use during winter.<br/><br/>
John Zvirovski / The Jamestown Sun
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Vegetable growing is a large part of the gardening genre with typical selections such as radishes, carrots, lettuce, beans, peas, beets, tomatoes and cucumbers. But peppers are also a staple in the garden for many growers and they come in either a hot or sweet pepper, commonly referred to as the bell pepper.

The beginning definition of pepper was because the vegetable had a bite to the taste, giving it that hot peppery flavor that we use for seasoning. These original peppers were known as the hot pepper as they contained the chemical capsaicin, which is the oil that creates the heat. Since pepper growing has been around for nearly 9,000 years, they have evolved over time into numerous different varieties.

Hot peppers typically need a longer growing season than bell peppers, ranging from 72 to over 100 days in some cases. Typical hot peppers grown in the garden are jalapenos, habaneros, green chili, Thai hots, cayenne and ultra-hot ghost peppers. Hot peppers are ranked on a scale called Scoville units, which is the measure of heat by variety. Jalapenos have a rating of about 9,000, whereas habaneros have a rating of about 200,000. Ghost peppers and their new selections can range over 1,000,000!! So be careful when dealing with hot peppers, especially through raw processing, as the oils can blister the skin on your hands if handled for any period of time. So when handling hot peppers, always make sure you wear protective gloves and wash your hands well after working with them.

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Sweet peppers are what many of us use in salads, eating raw or cooking. They come in green, yellow, orange, purple and red and look great when used together in various dishes. The green and purple selections tend to have a slightly more bitter taste than the yellow, orange and red, having a progressively sweeter flavor.

Sweet peppers grow with three to four lobes per vegetable. are high in vitamins C and A and are a good source of anti-oxidants. Out of the five color choices, the red sweet bell is the highest in each by nearly double. That may explain why the price for the red bells are always a bit higher in the stores ... better flavor and health benefits.

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Peppers enjoy a rich, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. They prefer warm temperatures in order to grow quickly and produce peppers. Many people will start them indoors four to six weeks before the last frost to plant them outside once the ground temperature warms to 65 degrees or higher for good root development. Some sweet peppers can produce large vegetables and may require staking. Narrow cages will work for this to keep them upright so the peppers will hang down and are easy to harvest. All peppers require a very sunny location in which to perform their best and allow them to ripen to their desired size.

As with all peppers, the seeds and veins of the pepper are the most bitter, and with hot peppers, the hottest portions. Many choose to cut these sections out if they don’t like the flavor or the heat that results.

Once harvested, sweet peppers can either be used right away or frozen whole, quartered or chopped to be used throughout the winter months. Keep in mind that when cooking peppers, this can eliminate many of their good nutritional values; eating them raw allows the greatest benefits.

Hot peppers can be used immediately or they can be frozen or dried and sealed in an air-tight container for use at a later date. Peppers such as jalapeno and habanero retain their heat qualities even after freezing, so be careful when using them later. I prefer to freeze half of mine and make hot sauce with the other half as it is always good to cook with at any time.

Many people do not know that the spice paprika is actually dried bell pepper crushed into a powder. Regardless of the fresh color of the pepper when growing, once it is dried, they all have that burnt orange hue to them. Of course, this spice is used for flavoring numerous salads along with meat and pasta dishes.

Right now in the garden peppers are beginning to bloom to create those amazing vegetables we look forward to eating. From this point until the autumn frosts, you will start to receive a non-stop production of peppers for daily use. If you have too many to eat all at once, try freezing for use later on as it is the best way to make the most of your garden produce.

Related Topics: GARDENINGHOME AND GARDEN
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