All peppers are a great source of vitamins A and C, which eliminate cell-damaging free radicals. Vitamin A also counters the effects of cigarette smoke, which may help prevent lung conditions such as emphysema. Bell peppers have the B vitamins folate and pyridoxine. Both decrease homocysteine in the blood, blocking the start of a process linked with higher cholesterol and risk of heart attack or stroke. Fiber in bell peppers helps maintain healthy heart function by lowering harmful cholesterol. Bell peppers also have a carotenoid lycopene and beta-cryptoxanthin, all linked to lower risk of many cancers when eaten regularly.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
Vitamins – C, A, B6 (Pyridoxine), K, B9 (Folate), B1 (Thiamin) and E
Minerals – Molybdenum, Manganese, Potassium and Copper
The antioxidant properties of vitamins C and A suppress or prevent the symptoms of atherosclerosis, heart disease, vascular damage, both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, emphysema, macular degeneration and the airway swelling of asthma. Regularly eating bell peppers may reduce the risk of cancers of the bladder, prostate, pancreas, lung and cervix.
How to Grow
Peppers are easier to grow than eggplant in cooler climates, but are not frost hardy and do best in warmer areas. They have two main subdivisions, sweet (bell) and spicy (chili). Hundreds of varieties to choose from. The best for your area depends on climate and soil conditions. All peppers prefer warmer climates with lengthy summers. Some are specially bred to handle cooler climates with a cover. Choose a spot with full sunlight. The soil pH needs to be just above 6. In cooler areas, warm up the soil a couple of weeks before sowing by covering the plot with plastic. If starting from seed, sow in a greenhouse or under a fluorescent light. Get them ready for planting outside by gradually exposing them to outside air, starting with just daytime, until they are fully exposed day and night. You need a cold frame to do this, which is a shallow box outdoors with an air-tight framed glass/plastic lid that can be lifted up to expose plants. Or you can get acclimatized transplants from a trusted local nursery. Amend the soil with nutrient-rich planting mix, aged compost or manure. In warm climates with no late spring frosts, plant outdoors 2 feet apart. In cooler climates, cover plants with a frost-proof perforated plastic, called a cloche. Pinch the growing end when the plants reach roughly 6 inches and attach them to a skinny rod for support. Tie side shoots for when they grow out to help support the weight of peppers. Water as regularly as it takes to keep the soil moist as they grow. Apply a liquid fertilizer rich in nutrients every other week. Harvest the peppers after they plump up. Red and green peppers are of the same variety. You can pick them when they are green or wait a little for them to turn red. With others, harvest when plump and hold a nice deep color. Hot peppers can be refrigerated, frozen or dried in the sun to store for winter usage.
Most damaging are aphids, spider mites, slugs and the white fly. See Artichokes for slug and aphid control. See Strawberries for red spider mite control. The white fly sucks the sap off many plants. Like other flies, they are attracted to the color yellow. To get rid of them, hang a thick piece of yellow paper or plastic with a thin coating of grease, or use old-style flypaper. Make sure to prevent it from attaching to the plants.
If you are de-seeding many hot peppers to save seeds or to cook, protect your hands with gloves and make sure not to touch your eyes until after thorough washing. Capsaicin is the powerful molecule that causes the burning sensation of pepper. It is insoluble in water and stays bound to the tongue no matter how much water is used to wash it down. Milk and cheese can break capsaicin’s bond with tongue receptors if it gets too hot. These varieties will grow in cooler climates: Bell (sweet) pepper: Corona, Canape, Golden Summit, Sweet Banana, Yolo Wonder, Perma Green and Merrimack Wonder. Chile (hot) pepper: Hungarian Wax (hot banana peppers) and Czechoslovakian Black. For warmer climates: Bell (sweet) peppers: Cubanelle, Pimento, Aconcagua and World Beater. Chile (hot) pepper: Cayenne, Anaheim, Jalapeno, Pablano, Serrano, Black Cuban, Holiday Cheer and the very hot Chiltepin.