Capsicum

Yeah! Welcome to our place. You know some of us are cool because we’re hot, while others are hot because they’re cool – but whatever our style we’re your type of dude, or should that be ‘fude’. Hey, let me tell you a little more about us – there’s a lot to know.

We capsicums, or sweet peppers as we’re known in the USA, are closely related to the hot chillies, but we’re sweeter tasting and not at all hot to eat. Most of us are glossy, smooth-skinned, and blocky (10-12cm long by 6-10cm across), with three to four lobes which slightly taper to one end. Some of us are long and tapered looking like a cow’s horn or dagger. Our thick walls enclose a large hollow and segments which our seeds are attached to. We come in a range of colours most commonly green or red but other colours, including golden yellow, black, brown, mauve and orange are available.

Availability

We’re generally available all year round with our best value being November to June.


Did you know?

  • We’re really fruits but are prepared like vegetables.
  • If we’re left on the plant long enough we turn from green to red or gold. Other capsicums can also turn brown, purple or yellow.
  • We belong to the same family as chillies but are much milder and sweet tasting.
  • Paprika and cayenne pepper (both well-known spices) are different varieties of capsicums that are more suited to drying.
  • Red capsicums contain a higher vitamin A and C content than green capsicums.
  • Americans call capsicum ‘bell peppers’, but our correct name is capsicum.

Varieties

We’re normally sold on colour or, occasionally, on shape.

Why Capsicum Are Good To Eat

  • Red capsicums have very high levels of vitamin C – 1 capsicum has enough vitamin C to meet the daily needs of 10 people and yellow and green capsicums have nearly as much
  • Red capsicums are also rich in beta carotene which the body converts to vitamin A, an excellent source of vitamin E and a good source of folate (one of the B vitamins).
  • One red capsicum contains almost the equivalent of almost 2 teaspoons of natural sugar, which is why it tastes so sweet and delicious. Yellow capsicums are sweet with natural sugars too, but green capsicums have much less sugar, so they’re a little more bitter.
  • 100g capsicum has 90 kJ (green) to 105 kJ/100g (red).

How They are Grown and Harvested

We grow on a medium sized bush, up to 1 metre, which produces white flowers. We prefer a warm tropical climate and do not like extreme changes in the weather.

We form following fertilisation of the flower and are picked at the preferred colour stage – usually green or red. It takes 11 to 13 weeks from the time our parents are planted (as seedlings) for us to reach maturity.

Green capsicums are picked when we’re ripe and have an all over green appearance. If left on the bush for another week or two we will slowly change to a vibrant red colour.

Our parent plant is very brittle so care must be taken by the pickers when snapping us off from the bush.

Choosing Capsicum

Select those of us which are firm, with glossy, unwrinkled skin. Avoid dull looking capsicum with soft spots or blemishes.

How to Keep Capsicum

Store us in the vegetable crisper or in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Use within 5 days.

Prime Growing Areas

History of Capsicum

We capsicums, along with our close relatives the chillies, come from tropical America and have been used for thousands of years. There is evidence from some historical sites that chillies have been used since about 7000 years BC. The first record of their cultivation was about
5000 BC.

The explorer Christopher Columbus took us from the West Indes back to Spain with him. From there we spread rapidly throughout Africa, India and Asia and then very much later to Australia. It was the European and Asian migrants to Australia who have been responsible for our increased popularity over the past 20 years.

Fun Ways to Eat and Cook Capsicum

We’re great to eat raw as a snack, in salads or with dips. Simply remove the stem top, white ribs and seeds. Serve as a vegetable or add to casseroles, stir-fries, fried rice, pies or omelettes. Microwave or stir-fry for 2-3 minutes or bake, whole or cut in half and stuffed.

To skin us, place under a hot grill or in hot oven until skin blackens. Place in plastic bag until cool enough to peel skin off.

Curried Capsicums
Fry a sliced onion until soft. Stir in 1 teaspoon curry powder and 1 clove minced garlic and cook 1 minute. Add 3 different coloured capsicums, thinly sliced and saute 5 minutes or until just soft. Stir through 4 tablespoons yoghurt and 1 teaspoon soy sauce, heat and serve.

Stuffed Capsicum
Remove top and deseed medium capsicums. Fill with any mixture of cooked leftover vegetables or spaghetti bolognaise. Sprinkle with buttered breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Bake in moderate oven until tender.

Cheese And Capsicum Rolls
Combine 250g cottage cheese, 1 red capsicum, deseeded and diced and 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced. Spread 6 slices of ham with wholegrain mustard. Lay a lettuce leaf on top and flatten gently with hand. Add cheese mixture and roll up. Serve on a bed of lettuce or rice salad garnished with extra capsicum. Great for snacks or school lunches.