Since I am probably the wimpiest person on earth when it comes to spicy food…today’s post about peppers was NOT one I felt confident in tackling. However, after reading this post by my daughter Britta, I was reminded that not all peppers are spicy hot, some are tasty and sweet! And since I am a HUGE fan of salsa (as long as it’s not too hot,) I can’t imagine life without peppers! Today Britta is going to give us a lesson in the different kinds of peppers available for planting (or purchasing) and some of the delicious things we can make with them!
As many of you probably already know, I’m fairly obsessed with gardening. Not only is it incredible therapeutic, but I get an immense amount of satisfaction out of growing some of my own food. Unfortunately, my husband Neil does not share my passion for gardening. In an attempt to get him interested (and maybe possibly even get him to help out??) I decided I would incorporate one of HIS passions: spicy food.
So this year I planted about 8 different varieties of peppers. While it is too soon to tell if my plan will actually get Neil interested in my garden, I have certainly been learning a lot about peppers! As pepper season is nearly upon us, I thought it would be a good time to share what I’ve learned about the different varieties of peppers.
Anaheim peppers are typically 6 – 10 inches long, and vary in color from light to dark green. These peppers have a mild heat level, though the “New Mexico” varieties can be much hotter. Chiles grown around the city of Hatch, New Mexico are often simply referred to as “Hatch chiles.”
Suggested Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken Chile Verde from Two Peas and their Pod
These short, yellow peppers go by many names, including Santa Fe grande, Caribe, and Guero (I found them at my local grocery store listed as Caribe peppers). They have a slightly sweet taste, a satisfying crunch, and are fairly mild in heat. People who are spicy food “wimps” (like my Mom!) may prefer to substitute this pepper in recipes calling for hotter peppers.
Suggested Recipe: Chicken Enchiladas from the Food Network
Bell peppers are the only variety that doesn’t produce capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers hot (and causes the occasionally nuclear burning sensation in your mouth). Because of this, they are often referred to as sweet peppers. Bell peppers come in a wide variety of colors, the most common being red, yellow, and green. Green peppers tend to be more bitter, while red peppers are very sweet, with yellow peppers falling somewhere in the middle.
Suggested Recipe: One Pan Unstuffed Bell Peppers
Jalapeños are one of the most popular varieties of peppers, due to their moderate heat level and rich flavor. A typical jalapeño pepper is 2 – 3 inches long, and is commonly picked and eaten while it is still green, though it will turn red if it’s allowed to fully ripen. Unlike many other peppers, the heat level of jalapeños varies widely from mild to hot. This variation is a result of differences in growing conditions, so it is nearly impossible to anticipate the heat level of a jalapeño before you taste it. But that’s what makes it fun, right?? :-)
Suggested Recipe: Spicy Jalapeño Philly Cheesesteak Sliders from Sweet Treats and More
Fresnos are similar in size and appearance to jalapeños, although they are typically sold when they are mature and bright red in color. Mature Fresnos are prized for their heat and color. They are often added to salsas, relishes, ceviches, and marinades.
Suggested Recipe: Pork Tenderloin with Fresh Cherry and Chile Salsa from Serious Eats
Poblanos are a stout, dark green pepper, usually around 4 – 6 inches long. While poblanos tend to have a mild flavor, like jalapeños, they can also vary substantially in heat intensity. Because of their moderate size and thick walls, poblanos are great for stuffing and are often used to make Chiles Rellenos (yum!)
Suggested Recipe: Chiles Rellenos from Chow
Serranos are typically around 2 inches long and green in color. They look just like small jalapeños, however they are much hotter! They have a delicious, bright flavor and are typically eaten raw. They are one of the most widely used chile peppers in Mexican cuisine, commonly used in pico de gallo, salsas, and ceviches.
Suggested Recipe: Shrimp Ceviche from Simply Recipes
Typically, a habanero pepper is 1 – 2 inches long, ranging in color from orange to red. Don’t let these little guys fool you, because they are SERIOUSLY HOT! Of all the hot peppers that are commonly used, the Habanero chili is recognized as one of the hottest. The habanero’s heat, as well as its fruity flavor, has made it a popular ingredient in hot sauces and spicy foods, especially in the Caribbean.
Suggested Recipe: Grilled Salmon with Habanero-Lime Butter from All Recipes
These small, tapered peppers are very hot, though not quite as hot as a habanero. These chilies are used extensively in Thai, Indonesian, and Vietnamese cuisine. The red (ripe) and green (immature) peppers are often harvested and sold together.
Suggested Recipe: Southeast Asian Shrimp Paella from Big Girls, Small Kitchen
Who knew there were so many types of peppers and pepper uses?!? Hopefully this little overview has taught you something new about peppers and you’ll try adding some to your garden! But even if you don’t garden, now you’re ready to tackle the pepper stands at the Farmer’s Market this summer like a total pro. :-)
A few extra tips for working with peppers:
- A bundt pan is not only a great way to present stuffed peppers, it is also a convenient way of transporting them.
- Counteract the hot taste of a chile pepper by consuming milk, bread, or rice to absorb the intensity of the capsaicin.
- When selecting peppers, choose any that do not have a wrinkled or dull-colored outer flesh.
- Fresh peppers are best stored in a refrigerator while dried peppers are best kept in dry, dark cool storage areas.
- To infuse a dish with less heat but a ton of flavor, add the whole pepper into the pot and remove before serving. For slightly more heat, cut a slit into the pepper and add it whole.
- Remove the seeds and membrane: a lot of the heat in these peppers is in the seeds and the white membrane on the inside. By removing these with a small paring knife and just using the outside flesh, you’ll tame the heat slightly.
- Red peppers are an excellent source of both vitamins A and C, while green peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C.
- Plant your hot peppers in a different section of the garden than your sweet peppers. They will cross, important to know if you are a seed saver.
- Whether you are in the garden or in the kitchen, when working with hot peppers wear gloves. Save your hands!
- Do not touch sensitive areas of your body eyes, nose, etc. while working with hot peppers.
- Dawn dishwashing liquid is your first line of defense to wash away burning pepper oils.