Hero ingredient: peppers

by Matt Bielby

30 July 2018

Jolly, robust and traffic light bright, shiny peppers are a welcome guest at any summertime table. they’re super versatile and uberhealthy too, meaning we underrate them at our peril…

We’re talking your standard pepper here, about the size of your fist and variously known as sweet pepper, bell pepper, or simply by their colour (‘green’, say, or ‘red’). But though it may seem pretty basic, the pepper has its secrets. For one thing, it’s a fruit, not a vegetable – though we treat it as if it were veggie, like we do the tomato. For another – and although there are different varieties – most peppers we see are basically the same thing, the different colours indicating nothing more than how ripe they are.

They all start green, you see – and on the shelves these are most common, as they’ve been picked the earliest – but leave them on the vine long enough and they’ll soon turn red, the sugar levels (and therefore sweetness) building as they ripen. Are greens the worst, then? In a way – they definitely have the fewest nutrients – but they’re also the cheapest, have the least sugar, and their more acidic, slightly bitter taste makes them great for cooking with; in something like a tangy goulash, they mellow considerably.

Red peppers, meanwhile, are gentler and sweeter, good all-rounders for ratatouille or tapas dishes, and lovely raw. And the yellow and orange ones? Not usually an in-between stage, as is often said, they’re generally separate (but very similar) varieties, bred to be sweet like the red pepper and to add fun to a salad; they’re especially great with tuna or sweet-and-sour pork. You may occasionally come across specialist white, brown, lavender or midnight purple varieties too, often strongly flavoured and some turning green when cooked.

In fact, there's more that you can do with peppers than you may think. We challenged The Devilled Egg to find some alternative recipes featuring peppers and they did not disappoint.