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Turn Up the Heat: Your Guide to Peppers

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Peppers – they come in all kinds of colors, shapes, and sizes, but what’s the difference? With over a thousand different types of peppers, it can be hard to choose the right ones. Fortunately, Ward’s has all the tips and tricks you’ll need to keep the “pep” in your step!

Basic Pepper Facts

Peppers are commonly categorized as hot or sweet and are used internationally to add flavor and spice to cuisines around the world. Fresh or dried, peppers make tasty additions to popular dishes and are easily accessible throughout the year.

History

Up until the arrival of Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the New World, peppers grew only in Central and South America. It wasn’t until Christopher Columbus brought dried peppers to Europe in 1493 that they were quickly introduced and cultivated elsewhere. Europeans at that time declared that these new, unnamed fruits be called “peppers,” as they resembled the spicy, hot ground pepper they were familiar with. Despite the shared name, the table pepper and the sweet and hot peppers we consume today are not related. 

Common Peppers

The peppers you may find in grocery stores or restaurants dishes near you may include the following. 

  • Bell: All bell peppers start as green peppers, but left on the vine to ripen, will turn yellow, then mature to a bright red color. Sweet and sometimes slightly bitter, they’re perfect for munching on either raw or cooked!
  • Pepperoncini: Usually sweet and mild in flavor, pepperoncini peppers can add just the right flavors to your next sub sandwich, Italian salad, or pizza.
  • Jalapeno: Jalapeno peppers can vary in spiciness depending on the growing factors. Mild to moderate heat levels from this medium-sized pepper can add a little kick to your salsa, chili, or even salad dressing!
  • Serrano: Best served roasted, serrano peppers are very similar to jalapenos in their color and heat but are smaller in size. Salsas, garnishes, or even hot sauces made with serrano peppers are sure to wow your taste buds.
  • Thai: Fifteen times hotter than your average jalapeno peppers, Thai peppers are seriously hot and add a fiery punch to foods. Often ground into chili powder or flakes, Thai peppers give traditional Thai dishes their spice and are great for making your own hot sauce.
  • Habanero: Proceed with caution! A whopping one hundred times hotter than that jalapenos, Habaneros are true tongue-scorchers and are commonly considered the hottest edible chili.  

The Scoville Scale

The spiciness, or heat, of a pepper is determined by a chemical compound called capsaicin –the same compound responsible for giving off a burning sensation in the mucous membranes when consumed. Scientists use the Scoville Scale to identify which peppers are hottest, measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). The scale ranges from 0 to over 3,000,000. Since bell peppers do not contain any capsaicin, they have a Scoville Scale rating of 0, whereas most edible peppers fall within the 0 to 300,000 SHU range.

Awesome Pepper Hacks

Whether you’re looking for help choosing the best, keeping them fresh, or whipping up something tasty, we’ve got you covered! Below are some of our favorite tips and tricks to keep in mind when dealing with peppers.

Choosing the Best Peppers

Selecting the perfect pepper can be difficult. Especially when picking out bell peppers, you’ll want to make sure to keep these things in mind:  

  • Choose peppers with deep, vivid colors. For example, a dark green pepper will be riper than a lighter shade. Also, see that there are no bruises, blemishes, or sunken areas, as this may indicate overripeness. You’ll want a pepper that is well-shaped and glossy without wrinkled skins! 
  • Avoid peppers that are not firm to the touch. A gentle squeeze will let you know if the skin feels right.
  • Pick them up! Heavier peppers are usually riper, thick-walled, and juicy inside.

How to Store Peppers

Storing your peppers can prolong their shelf life! Keep your peppers unwashed, dry, and in your crisper drawer. Kept this way, your bell peppers should last about 1-2 weeks. When you’re ready to eat, wash them, and cook as desired. Cooked peppers will last approximately 3-5 days.

Cook Up Something Tasty

Cooked or raw, peppers are great ways to add some color and serious flavor to your dishes! With so many delicious recipes to choose from, it can be difficult to pick just one. Try this tasty stuffed bell pepper recipe

Find Your Perfect Peppers at Ward’s

Before you come to Ward’s to pick the perfect peppers like Peter Piper, make sure you bring your reusable bags or storage containers to be a part of the zero waste movement with us! 

(352) 372-1741
515 NW 23rd Ave.
Gainesville, FL 32609

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