How to select for best flavor:
By bell pepper, I mean the plump, sweet, green, yellow or red pepper. If you are looking for hot peppers, see the listing under chili pepper. The best way to tell if a bell pepper is ripe is by its appearance. The pepper should be firm, smooth and uniform in color. Avoid peppers with black spots, decaying stems or shriveled skins that are turning color. If you want the pepper to stuff, choose the peppers graded “fancy.” They will be larger and more uniform in shape, just right for stuffing. If you are going to cut them up anyway, get the less expensive “choice” grade. These may have an irregular or unusual shape, but otherwise will be just as good.
Peak of the season:
Bell peppers are available year round, but the peak season is August and September. December through April, most come from Mexico and the price is usually higher. If you don’t want to pay the extra price for red sweet peppers, you can ripen green ones to red at home. They tend to wrinkle a bit and not be as crisp as vine-ripened, but on pizza or in a sauce, you can’t tell the difference.
In nutritional terms, the reder the bell pepper, the better. Sweet peppers of any color are a good source of vitamins A and C, but one raw green pepper has about 95 mgs. of ascorbic acid, vitamin C, while one red pepper has about 141 mgs. of ascorbic acid. The same is true of the vitamin A content. Calories and fat are low no matter which color. An average raw pepper has about 20 calories and only traces of fat. On top of that, they’re a good source of fiber.
Bell peppers are natives of the American continent and were introduced into the rest of the world after Columbus’ voyages. They became so popular in other countries that the pimento, after it dried out in the Americas, was reintroduced from Spain. Hungary is famous for its paprika, a sweet red pepper that grows especially well there.