Common names: pepper, bell pepper, sweet pepper, hot pepper, wax pepper, chili pepper, pimento Botanical names: Capsicum frutescens (hot pepper), Capsicum annuum (sweet and hot peppers) Origin: New World tropics
Peppers come in bell (sweet) or hot varieties. The bell peppers are the most familiar; most are sweet, but there are a few hot varieties. They're usually harvested when green, but will turn red (or occasionally yellow) if left on the plant. Hot peppers — sometimes called chili peppers — are intensely flavored, and there are more than a hundred varieties. Ask your Cooperative Extension Service for specific recommendations for your area.
The following are reliable varieties for general use; the initials TM indicate resistance to tobacco mosaic disease. Bell (sweet) peppers: Bell Boy (TM, 75
control aphids with Malathion or Diazinon, and flea beetles with carbaryl. Carbaryl can also be used to control cutworms; apply it to the base of the plants. Detailed information on pest control is given in "Keeping Your Garden Healthy" in Part 1.
Pepper plants are susceptible to rot, blossom end rot, anthracnose, tobacco mosaic virus, bacterial spot, and mildew. Planting disease-resistant varieties and maintaining the general cleanliness and health of your garden will help cut down the incidence of disease. If a plant does become infected, remove it before it can spread disease to healthy plants. If you smoke, wash your hands before working with the plants to avoid spreading tobacco mosaic virus. Detailed information on disease prevention is given in "Keeping Your Garden Healthy" in Part 1.
If you want sweet red peppers, leave your sweet green peppers on the vine until they ripen and turn red. Cut the peppers off the vine; if you pull them off half the plant may come up with the fruit. Hot peppers can irritate skin, so wear gloves when you pick them.
Peppers will keep up to one week in the refrigerator or for two to three weeks in a cool, moist place. Sweet or hot peppers can be pickled whole or in pieces, or they can be chopped and frozen or dried. Whole peppers can be strung up to dry — a wreath of hot peppers makes a great kitchen decoration. Detailed information on storing and preserving is given in Part 3.
Stuffed, raw, pickled, or roasted, sweet and hot peppers add lively flavor to any meal. Stuff sweet peppers with tuna, chicken, a rice and meat mixture, or chili con carne. For a vegetarian dish, stuff them with rice and chopped vegetables, a cheese mixture, or seasoned breadcrumbs. Stuff raw peppers with cream cheese, slice into rings, and serve in a salad. Use thick rings in a dish of vegetables for tempura. French-fry peppers, or fry them Italian-style in oil and garlic. Use chopped peppers in chili and spaghetti sauce recipes, and add a spoonful of chopped hot pepper to a creamy corn soup for an interesting flavor contrast.
When you're preparing raw hot peppers, cut and wash them under running water and wash your hands well when you're finished. Avoid rubbing your eyes while handling hot peppers. Milk is more soothing than water for washing the hot pepper's sting from your skin.
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