Capsicums and Chillies (Peppers)
Types of Capsicums and Chillies (Peppers)
Selection and storage
Select capsicums and chillies that are deeply coloured and free of wrinkles, soft spots or other indications of age or decay. Shape or size is not usually an indicator of quality. All capsicums are green when young, changing to red and orange as they mature. All capisicums are edible, regardless of colour, more mature capsicums are sweeter. Capsicums are also known sweet peppers, bell peppers, chillies, pimiento, peperoni (Italian) and poivrons (French). Paprika is made from ground dried capsicum. The spiciness level of a pepper is expressed in Scoville units, a measure of the capsaicin content in the pepper, which is perceived as “heat” by the human palate. The heat range of individual peppers can vary dramatically because it is affected by both the variety and growing conditions. Store in the crisper section of the refrigerator.
Capsicum and chillies are available all year round but are most abundant during the summer months.
Remove seeds from capsicums before use as the seeds can be bitter. Chillies can be used with or without seeds, using the seeds leaving means the chilli is hotter. Capsicums are good with tomatoes, eggplant, onion, garlic, capers, anchovies and olives. Chillies are good with tomatoes, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, coriander, cumin, coconut and lime juice.
Capsicums are an excellent source of vitamins C, A and K, a good source of vitamin B6 and are low in calories. Chilli’s are very high in vitamins C and A. They are also known for clearing sinuses when eaten (especially the very hot ones) and may help to improve circulation. Capsaicin is also known for relieving inflammation caused by arthritis when applied topically in a cream.
Chillies can be red, green orange or yellow. Generally the longer chillies are not as hot as shorter chillies. Red chillies are hotter than green chillies. There are many varieties of chillies grown throughout the world with different cuisines using different varieties. Much of the heat of a chilli is in the seeds as well as some bitterness, so remove seeds if you desire less heat.
The main types available in Australia are:
Are fairly hot, small, chillies that are red when ripe. They are used in Asian cusine.
Long green and red Chillies are less hot and good in sandwiches, pickled or used raw or cooked in curries and stirfries.
Jalapeños are hot, small, dark green chillies used in Mexican cuisine.
Cayenne chillies are very hot, long, narrow, red chillies which are dried and made into cayenne pepper.
Habañeros are extremely hot, orange or red pods found in many commercial hot sauces.
A red capsicum is one that is left on the vine long enough to turn from green to red. Red capsicums are sweeter than green as the sugar content keeps developing while on the vine. Red capsicums contain a higher vitamin A and C content than green capsicums.
One red capsicum contains almost the equivalent of almost 2 teaspoons of natural sugar, which is why it tastes so sweet and delicious.
These are picked when ripe but still green. Green capsicum are more bitter and the skin generally firmer than other coloured capsicums. They are not as sweet as red, yellow or orange capsicums.
When capsicums are left on the plant long enough they turn from green to red, gold, yellow or orange. Other capsicums can also turn brown and purple. There is no significant flavour difference between red, orange or yellow capsicums. The main reason to use different types is for the vibrant colour they add to dishes. Yellow and orange capsicums are delicious when roasted or added fresh to salads. They can also be sauteed with onions and garlic when making a slow cooked dish or braise.
Baby capsicums are special varieties that have been developed in Australia to ripen when small. Baby red, yellow and orange capsicums are baby green capsicums that have been left on the vine. Red, yellow and orange types grow on separate bushes.
This relatively new variety has glossy skin, is sweet and has very few seeds. They are a good snack size or can be added raw to salads. They are the perfect size to stuff and eat as antipasto. Stuff with feta or goats cheese, herbs and grill or roast until soft but not collapsed. You could also stuff and eat without cooking.
Milder than bullet chillies with red hotter than green.
A hot chilli that can be used whole or chopped.