Pack in the peppers

With a punch of vitamin C and A, sweet bell peppers will be showing up in Michigan farmers markets soon.

Michigan vegetables are on the cusp of being readily available at local farmers markets throughout the state. Rolling in to markets soon is the sweet bell peppers, typically seen in July. This sweet, crunchy vegetable is not only versatile but healthy as well. One serving, or ½ cup of chopped peppers, is only 20 calories and offers a punch of vitamin C and A.

Peppers can be used in a variety of ways. They can serve as a quick, healthy snack that can be taken on the go without too much fuss. They can also be a pleasant addition to green salads, pasta salads, main entrees, wraps or sandwiches, salsas, soups or used as a colorful topping to a casserole. Peppers can be washed, sliced and then frozen, without being blanched, for future use. Unfortunately, they do lose their crisp nature and become limp when thawed. Therefore, it is suggested they be used in cooked dishes when they are used after being frozen.

When selecting sweet bell peppers, look for crisp, firm peppers. Try to avoid peppers that have mold or an increasing number of soft, wrinkly spots. Peppers can be green, yellow, orange, red, purple or white. All bell peppers do start out green, but some varieties change to a different color and become sweeter if they are left on the plant longer before being harvested. Store unwashed peppers in a plastic bag in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer for up to ten days. Wash under cool water prior to use.

If choosing to grow your own peppers, Michigan State University Extension provides a variety of gardening tips for several fruits and vegetables. Tip sheets for harvesting are also available. To read additional information about peppers, or other Michigan fruits and vegetables visit the MSU Extension Michigan Fresh website. This website also offers cooking demonstration videos.

Looking for a farmers market close by that might offer peppers or other Michigan fruits and vegetables? To assist you in finding a farmers market, the Michigan Farmers Market Association provides a find a farmers market option on their website.

Recipes using many fresh fruits and vegetables, like peppers, can be found in the online USDA Recipe Finder. Simply visiting this site and entering peppers in the ingredient search will generate several recipes. The USDA Recipe Finder will also generate a shopping list if one is needed for any recipe on the site. Kansas State University Research and Extension’s Fix It Fresh! Recipe Series highlights a Green Bean and Peppers with Lemony Dressing as a hot side dish recipe found on page 58. The recipe is low in calories, fat and sodium with a high amount of vitamin C.

Below is a low cost, nutritious recipe submitted to the USDA Recipe Finder by the University of Maryland Extension from their Eat Smart. Be Fit. recipes.

Corn and Pepper Cups

Yield: 10 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 5 green peppers (cut in half, lengthwise)
  • 1⁄2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 1⁄2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with chiles, undrained (10 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained (8 1/2 ounces)
  • 1⁄2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Instructions:

  1. Remove seeds from peppers. Cook in boiling water 2 – 3 minutes. Drain. Set aside.
  2. Cook onion and garlic in oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat for 3 minutes.
  3. Combine rice, tomatoes, corn and onion mixture. Mix well.
  4. Spoon rice mixture into pepper halves. Places on baking sheets coated with cooking spray.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes or until hot. Sprinkle with cheese.
  6. Bake again at 350 F for 5 minutes until cheese melts.

Cost:

Per recipe: $4.56

Per serving: $0.46

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