Add some color and nutrition to your plate this fall with peppers

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By: Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross
lienhart@purdue.edu

Jennifer Shephard/The Elkhart Truth

There is just nothing like the colors of vegetables and fruits. Mother Nature sure outdid herself when it comes to creating all the wonderful colors.

Research shows that we eat first with our eyes, so you would think the sense of our eye sight and the smarts of our brain would make vegetables and fruits a natural attraction for us to eat them.

Fall is just a great time of the year for colorful foods. One vegetable that is in plentiful supply right now is the pepper.

Since we eat with our eyes, the colors of red, yellow, orange, purple and green sweet peppers are an added bonus for many recipes. All peppers, whether sweet or hot, are members of the capsicum family and are native to the Americas. The plant that produces peppercorns, piper nigrum, is native to Asia and is not related.

Peppers are a rich source of vitamin C, superior to even to citrus, and they contain as much vitamin A as carrots.

For centuries, chilies (hot peppers) have been put to medicinal use, particularly as a topical healing agent. Even today, many commercial liniments contain oleoresin of capsicum.

The most widely available sweet pepper is the bell pepper, named for its bell like shape. Green bell peppers are the most common, but red, yellow, orange and even purple are available year round.

There are also the new mini colored sweet peppers that are great snacks and have many food preparation possibilities. Most green peppers will turn red if left on the plant , but most of the red ones in the grocery store are a red variety. The colored peppers are sweeter than the green and the flavor is milder. All bell peppers have a mild flavor and a crisp, crunchy texture.

One way we like to enjoy peppers at home is to make pimiento spread. This is a wonderful spread and goes well with many veggies. Where pimientos are called for in the recipe, I finely dice a red pepper and then smash it with the side of the knife.

PIMIENTO SPREAD

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. (¾ of a block) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar
  • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack
  • ½ cup light or fat-free mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup or more pimentos, smashed
  • 1 Tbsp. grated onion
  • Cracked black pepper

Directions

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Add all of the remaining ingredients and beat until well blended.

For more great food ideas, join us for our Fall Holiday program, Saturday, October 25 and our Cast Iron Cooking lesson on Thursday, October 23. More information can be found on the Purdue Extension Elkhart County website.

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