Bell pepper also called sweet pepper, pepper or capsicum is a pepper cultivar in the nightshade family (Solanaceae).
Botanically speaking, bell peppers are fruits; however, they are considered vegetables in culinary contexts.
Capsicum name comes from Greek word “kapto” which means “to bite” while “pepper” come from the similarity in taste with “black pepper.”
They are native to Central and South America.
The oldest found capsicum was discovered in the remains of pottery from Puebla and Oaxaca, today’s Federal Districts of Mexico.
Bell pepper seeds were later carried to Spain in 1493 and from there spread to other European and Asian countries.
The misleading name “pepper” (pimiento in Spanish) was given by Christopher Columbus upon bringing the plant back to Europe. At that time peppercorns (black pepper, Piper nigrum) were a highly prized condiment.
Despite their widespread acceptance today, bell peppers were initially very unpopular in Europe.
The mild bell pepper cultivar was developed in 1920s, in Szeged, Hungary.
Bell pepper grows on a short bush which can grow up to 1 meter (3.3 feet) and which has white flowers.
The most common colors of bell peppers are green, yellow, orange and red. More rarely, brown, white, lavender, and dark purple peppers can be seen, depending on the variety.
Bell peppers may be eaten cooked or raw, such as in salads.
Bell peppers are used in almost every aspect of cooking you can think of, one of the more famous dishes highlighting the bell pepper is stuffed bell peppers.
You can also dried or pickled bell peppers.
There are only 20 calories in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of bell pepper.
Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C and vitamin B6. They are a very good source of folate, molybdenum, vitamin E, dietary fiber, vitamin B2, pantothenic acid, niacin and potassium. Additionally, they are a good source of vitamin K, manganese, vitamin B1, phosphorus and magnesium.
The health benefits of bell peppers include reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol, controls diabetes, brings relief from pain and eases inflammation, boosting immune system, good for nervous system and helps renew cells, keeping skin and hair looking youthful, maintaining eye health and play a protective role in certain types of cancers.
While the bell pepper is a member of the Capsicum amus genus like the hot chili peppers, it is the only variety that doesn’t produce any capsaicin, which is the compound that is the heat in chili peppers.
China is the world’s largest producer of bell peppers, followed by Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia, and the United States.
Packages of 3 bell peppers , green, yellow and red are sometimes sold as “Traffic Light Peppers.”
The highest amount of Vitamin C in a bell pepper is concentrated in the red variety.
Bell peppers can stay refrigerated for five days if it is placed in a plastic bag. Green peppers last longer than ripened ones. If they are frozen, they can last much longer.