History and Facts
Peppers are the berry-fruits of plants in the genus capsaicin which are in the nightshade family, with tomatoes and eggplants. The spicy “chili peppers” and mild “sweet peppers” and “bell peppers” are all native to tropical parts of the Americas. Prehistoric remains of peppers have been found in Central and South America.
Mistaken by colonists as a form of black pepper, the Spanish and Portuguese brought chili pepper seeds across the world along with their conquests, eventually popularizing them around the world. You can read more about their travels here.
It’s estimated that chilies have been an important part of the cuisine and medicine for people living in what is now the Americas since 7,500 BC, including the Aztecs, Mayans and indigenous people. They were estimated to be domesticated and cultivated around 6,000 BC. Today, peppers are still an important part of cuisine and medicine for people living in Central, Latin and North America.
Peppers come in a variety of sizes, shapes and flavors. From tiny hot and spicy Thai chilis to big sweet globous bells.
Peppers are a perennial plant that thrives in hot weather. It is most commonly grown as an annual. China, India, Mexico and the United States lead production in growing peppers.
What’s the difference between Green, Yellow, Orange and Red Peppers?
Red, yellow and orange peppers are three different varieties that have been bred to ripen to that color. Green peppers, on the other hand, are the same as red, they are just picked before they are completely ripe, like green tomatoes.
This is why red bell peppers are generally more expensive. They take longer to grow and are more susceptible to disease, rot, and pests.
What makes a hot pepper spicy?
Capsaicin and a few other compounds called “capsaicinoids” are what make peppers spicy. The amount of these compounds depends on the variety of pepper, growing conditions, and maturity of a plant. When chili pepper plants are stressed, or are growing in dry conditions, the amount of these compounds increases, producing spicier fruits.
Humans “taste” spicy flavors because capsaicin triggers pain receptors in the throat and mouth, where discomfort and heat are simulated.
The intensity of the “heat” of chilies is measured in Scoville heat units (SHU), which is measured using high-performance liquid chromatography to measure the capsaicinoid content in a variety of pepper. The bell pepper has 0 SHU, Jalapenos have 3,500-10,000 SHU and the Habanero has 100,000-350,000 SHU.
Try Something New!
Shishito 100-1,000 SHU
Shishitos are mild but have a fresh, grassy, and pepper flavor. One in every ten shishitos may be a bit spicier, but still pretty mild. Shishitos originate from Japan and are most commonly enjoyed simply roasted with a little oil and salt.
Poblano 1,000-1,500 SHU
These chilies are mild and used in the popular Mexican dish, Chillies Rellenos. They are usually picked when green, but can also be found riper in a deep red or burgundy color. They taste like green bell pepper, with a little spice and “chili” flavor. When cooked, they become sweeter. Use poblanos however you’d use bells, they are especially great stuffed.
Serrano 5,000-15,000 SHU
Much like the jalapeno pepper, but a little bit spicier and smaller. The flavor is less like bell pepper, and more like cayenne pepper. You can use these lovely little ones as you would a jalapeno- add them to burgers, in salsa, chili, on tacos, pickle them, and so on.
Where to Buy Local Peppers
Wherever local veggies are sold near you! Find farmers’ markets, local food retail locations, and farmstands selling them at AdirondackHarvest.com.
How do you like to enjoy summer peppers? Comment below and let us know.