When I first married George, I had no idea that it was a love-me-love-my-peppers sort of proposition.
It wasn’t a deal-breaker, you understand. I didn’t MIND peppers. I had just never embraced them with George’s enthusiasm. I’d dutifully add them to recipes when called for, but seldom introduced them on my own.
For George, though, sweet peppers are one of the main food groups. Whenever we discussed recipes, peppers found their way into the list of suggested ingredients. Whether it was pizza, stir-fry, vegetable soup, stew or even just a salad, I knew George would end the list with “…and peppers.”
He began to win me over, though, when he started choosing the red and yellow peppers. Oh my, sweet as can be
and much preferable to those–to me–slightly bitter green peppers, which was what I had eaten mostly.
“I could eat this like an apple,” I told George one day, as I hauled a beautiful yellow pepper out of the bag. That was quite a capitulation.
The problem, of course, is that the red, yellow and orange peppers tend to be so much more expensive. Here in Door County, we’ve seen them priced as high as $4 a pound. However, when George’s music gigs take him to Chicago, he can pick them up at some of his favorite produce stores for much better prices. This past summer, he found some beautiful specimens for 98 cents a pound.
Needless to say, he came home with two huge bags of them.
“We’re going to turn into peppers,” I said, only half joking. George suggested we try freezing them–and to our delight, they freeze beautifully. The best part is that George, who has often told me he likes chopping veggies, volunteered to chop all of these and bag them for the freezer.
“You’re on!” I told him.
Now, when I’m cooking something, I just grab a bag from the freezer, break off as many as I need, thaw them in a strainer under running water, and in minutes they’re ready to use.
Just recently, I decided to find out if these peppers are good for anything besides flavoring my foods. I’m watching cholesterol these days, and have learned the value of not just eliminating bad foods, but also adding good ones. To my surprise, I discovered that I hit the jackpot with bell peppers.
My research says they are packed with several nutrients. They are a good source of vitamin C, thiamine, vitamin B6, beta carotene, and folic acid. They also contain a large amount of phytochemicals that have exceptional antioxidant activity, including chlorogenic acid, zeaxanthin, and coumeric acid.
There’s more. Bell peppers have been shown to protect against cataracts and to prevent blood clot formation and to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Best of all, they’re promoted for people with elevated cholesterol levels.
When comparing the nutrient values of the different bell peppers, studies have shown that red bell peppers have significantly higher levels of nutrients than green. I now feel justified in liking the green ones least. Red bell peppers also contain lycopene, which is a carotene that helps to protect against cancer and heart disease.
One thing I took note of, however, is that peppers retain their nutrients better when cooked over low heat for very short periods of time. Raw is probably best of all, so now I don’t feel so bad about wanting to eat them like apples.
First I learned to like them, and now I really appreciate them. Now, I’ll be looking for ways to include sweet peppers in my meals. Today, I found a recipe in the New York Times for a cabbage, onion and sweet pepper tart that made my stomach growl just reading the directions. I’m going to try it as soon as possible. Click for the recipe.
Just look what George started. I wonder if he should get a finder’s fee.