A group of Solanaceous fruiting plants, commonly known as capsicums, bell peppers, sweet peppers, paprika (the spice) and chillies.
They come in many shapes, forms, colours and varying tastes from sweet to spicy. The colour range is spectacular, adding visual pleasure to any dish. Traditionally known for the red and green types, nearly all start life green and colour up when mature.
Their strong flavours whether sweet or spicy, add depth and body to many recipes, with the sweeter ones also consumed raw for snacking alternatives and with dips. They've been well known for their use in antipasto platters where the whole fruit are chargrilled on an open flame, to impart a smokiness to the flesh.
The main production season for outdoor crops is generally summer, but there are large volumes being produced in greenhouses to enable year round production, so as to enjoy at any time. Fruit are readily exported
How to prepare
Trim off the green stem attachment, cut in half lengthwise, remove the core and seed cavity and prepare as necessary into strips, chunks or chopped.
The thicker walls of larger paprika's make them especially suitable for stuffing and baking, in which case leave intact and either cut in half, hollow out add a stuffing mixture or trim off the top, hollow out and stuff leaving the top as a 'lid' then bake.
One other handy idea is to cut across the whole fruit to make rings to use on the barbeque to cook eggs in.
- Baked: 10 - 15 minutes
- Microwave: 1.5 - 3 minutes
- Grilled: 5 - 7 minutes
- Stir Fry: 3 - 5 minutes
Buyer's and storage guide
Fruit are generally sold loose with some multi coloured prepacks now becoming available. Look for clean, glossy fruit with limited imperfections and even colouring. The attachment stem should also be a fresh green.
Try to always use them fresh without much storage, and should keep for 3-4 days on the bench. Although not ideal, they can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week but ensure to leave them out for an hour or so before using.
- Enjoy stuffed with fresh herbs, rice, tomatoes and minced meat, then baked
- Chargrill whole on an open flame, remove the blackened skin and use in antipasto, salads and burgers
- Sliced into 'sticks' to use as dippers or appetisers
- Create mini pizzas and top along with other vegetables - create to get the kids involved
- Goes well with tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs in a napolitana pasta sauce, served in a large bowl with your favourite pasta to share around the table