If you subscribe to the myth that hot peppers cause ulcers and indigestion, please read on.

Capsicum, found in peppers, gives off heat and stimulates all your nerve endings – increasing blood flow – which not only heals, but actually prevents many bad health issues. And, peppers are high in vitamins A and C, as well as calcium.

Eating peppers in the capsaicin family can benefit you because they play a role in both digestive and cardiovascular health as well as in long-term cancer prevention. They even help you to lower your cholesterol levels.

Don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself.

Chile peppers are thought to have originated in South America, but they have been cultivated all over the world for centuries, resulting in a wide variety of species with different colors, shapes, flavors, and, of course, spiciness.

In my quest to find a good pepper resource to help you learn how to incorporate peppers into your cooking regimen, I found a very thorough report on Chowhound created by Happy Quail Farms, a family-run farm in northern California that specializes in peppers.

The following information includes average size and hotness scale (from 1 to 5).

 

Poblano (Ancho)

A good, easy-to-find grilling pepper that’s ideal for stuffing so you can easily make chiles rellenos. Poblanos get fairly big and are usually sold fresh, while they are younger and dark green. At their red, mature stage they are usually dried and are then referred to as ancho chiles. Their skin is easy to blister and peel. They have a good flavor, with enough heat to be zesty but not scorching.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 4 to 5 inches long; SPICINESS: 2 to 3

Guindilla Verde

Not to be confused with the Jarred Guindillas, this is a tender pepper with a distinct sweetness. This particular variety is from the Bilbao region, and is good fried – served with meat like lamb or pork.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 6 inches long; SPICINESS: 1

Chilaca (Pasilla)

This is a Mexican variety that matures to a dark chocolate brown. It’s a versatile pepper that’s good for sauces, roasting, and grilling when fresh. When dried they are called pasillas – or chiles negros – and are common in mole recipes. They are available both whole and powdered.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 7 to 9 inches long; SPICINESS: 2 to 3

Basque Fryer (Piment d’Anglet, Doux Long des Landes)

A French pepper used in many French Basque recipes. It is a twisty, long pepper that when green has a distinct peppery taste with a very tender skin, and lends a nice chile zest without adding heat. When it turns red, it gets very sweet and shines as an ingredient in sauces, chopped up and sautéed for a pipérade, or fried with meats. It’s really good with sausage.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 6 inches long; SPICINESS: 1

Anaheim

Named after the city in Southern California, the Anaheim is a big, mild chile that’s good for stuffing. Its skin is a little tough, but it peels pretty easily if you roast it first. Anaheims are good roasted, cut into strips, and thrown into a salad; stuffed with meat and grilled; used in salsa verde; or added to cheese enchiladas.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 5 to 6 inches long; SPICINESS: 1

Cayenne

When ripe and fresh, theses bright red chiles are long, skinny, and very hot. We usually used use them in a dried, powdered form, known as cayenne pepper.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 2 to 6 inches long; SPICINESS: 4 to 5

Guernica

The Guernica is a Spanish pepper similar to the Padrón in flavor but bigger and without any heat. It is often served fried like the Padrón or stuffed with cheese or other fillings. It develops a tougher skin as it matures, and then is best used roasted and peeled.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 3 to 5 inches long; SPICINESS: 1

Banana

Known as bácskai fehér in Hungary, you can get these both sweet and hot. They are often used in Hungarian lecsó (a dish of stewed peppers and eggs), pickled, or served grilled with meats.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 6 to 7 inches long; SPICINESS: 2

Jalapeño (Chipotle)

As one of the best-known peppers in America, you’ve probably enjoyed these peppers stuffed with cream cheese and deep-fried as a bar snack, or chopped up in salsa. It gets its name from Jalapa (also spelled Xalapa), the capital of Veracruz, Mexico. Harvested at both its green and red stages, the jalapeño is spicy but easy to seed and devein if you wish to remove some of the heat. When dried and smoked, it’s called a chipotle chile.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 2 to 3 inches long; SPICINESS: 2 to 3

Serrano

Widely available, versatile and spicier than the jalapeño, the serrano is a small Mexican pepper with thick, juicy walls. That makes it perfect as a great hot-salsa pepper. It is most commonly sold in its green stage (it turns red and then yellow as it matures). You can also find serranos pickled or dried.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 1.5 to 2.5 inches long; SPICINESS: 3

Habanero

Native to parts of Central America and the Caribbean, this little pepper packs a lot of heat. But contrary to popular belief, the Red Savina habanero is not the hottest type of chile. That distinction now goes to the Indian bhut jolokia, or ghost chile. Still, habaneros add a lot of heat to cooking and should be used judiciously. You’ll find different colors, ranging from red to white-yellow and even brown, but orange is the most common. Great for salsa, hot sauces, or a fiery jerk chicken.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 2 inches long; SPICINESS: 5

Pimiento de Padrón

This pepper is a specialty pepper grown in Galicia in northern Spain. It is harvested young and small, with a tender skin and no mature seeds, so it’s perfect for eating whole, bitten right off the stem. It is generally mild with a nutty flavor at this stage, but it gets hotter as it matures. It is traditionally eaten as a simple tapa, fried in olive oil and tossed with salt. Part of the fun of eating these peppers is that about one in a dozen will be pretty hot.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 2 to 4 inches long; SPICINESS: 1 (but the hot ones, even when young, can be 2 to 3)

Aji Rojo

Common in a lot of Peruvian cooking, the aji rojo is more of an orange-red than a true red pepper. It has a similar heat level to cayenne and can be chopped finely and added to ceviche or mixed with cheese or cream to make a sauce to serve over potatoes or chicken.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 2 to 3 inches long; SPICINESS: 4

Thai

Whether you find the Thai green or red this tiny chile adds serious amounts of heat to Southeast Asian cuisines. Throw them whole into Thai soups like tom kha gai, purée them for curry pastes, or chop them up for any dish where you want to add heat without a lot of pieces of pepper.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 1 to 2 inches long; SPICINESS: 5

Bell

Bells are a crunchy, juicy pepper that are great for eating raw on salads, sautéing, or roasting and chopping to include on a pizza or a sandwich. You’ve seen the green, yellow and red bell pepper, but they also come in purple, brown and orange.

Green bell peppers are more bitter than yellow or red. That’s because they are not yet ripe. All green peppers, if left on the vine, will transition through yellow and end up red. Red and yellow bells are more nutritious. Yellow and orange peppers are loaded with Vitamin A and C while greens have very little, if any.

Did you know Paprika is made from dried ground red bell peppers – and sometimes chili peppers?

AVERAGE SIZE: About 3 to 6 inches long; SPICINESS: 1

Cherry

Varying in size and shape hot cherry peppers are sometimes very hot. But, they can be sweet, too. They are usually round, though sometimes more of a triangular shape. They’re often used in pickling by tossing one in a jar of cucumber pickles or a jar of more mild peppers to spice things up a bit.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 1 to 2 inches long; SPICINESS: 4

Hungarian Pimento

This is a type of pimento (or pimiento) pepper, which is what you often find stuffed in green olives. It is a large, sweet red pepper, similar to a bell but with an extra-thick, juicy wall. The skin comes off easily, so this is an ideal pepper for roasting. It’s also great to eat raw with dip.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 4 to 6 inches long; SPICINESS: 1

Piquillo

The ultimate pepper for roasting, the Spanish piquillo has become very popular because of its intensely sweet flavor and bright red color. It is usually only available canned or jarred, but is becoming easier to find fresh. It is often roasted, peeled, and stuffed with a variety of fillings like salt cod, tuna, or cheese.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 3 inches long; SPICINESS: 1

Shishito

Popular in Japan, the shishito has thin walls, mild heat, and a little sweetness. It is good served like the Padrón: simply fried, drizzled with some soy sauce and sesame oil, and eaten whole. It also makes very tasty tempura.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 2 to 4 inches long; SPICINESS: 1 to 2 (occasionally you might get a 2 to 3)

 

Buying Peppers

When shopping for a good pepper, look for firm skin with no wrinkles, brown or soft spots, or holes. The stems should be firm, fresh and green. When you hold it, you want to feel that it’s heavier than you would expect. That means it’s fresh and filled with moisture.

Roasting Peppers

Roasting peppers is so much easier than you probably thought. Once you give it a try, you can enjoy the tender, smoky and sometimes sweet or spicy flavors without ever having to spend the money on those peppers-in-a-jar that don’t taste as good as your own.

Though there are a few alternatives to charring the pepper and different methods to steam your pepper, this is what Allrecipes has to say about it.

  1. Preheat your oven’s broiler
  2. Arrange the peppers on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet on the highest rack in your oven.
  3. Keep a watchful eye on the peppers. When dark splotches begin to appear on the peppers, remove the baking sheet from the oven.
  4. The peppers will be very hot. Using tongs, carefully turn each pepper over. Once all of the peppers are turned, return the sheet to the oven.
  5. When the tops of the peppers begin to darken again, remove them from the oven and place them into a large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, making sure that it is sealed air-tight all the way around. The steam from the trapped hot peppers will loosen the skins.
  6. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle (probably about 15 to 20 minutes), pull the stems out of each pepper.
  7. Hold one end of the pepper down on a flat surface and gently peel the skin off of each pepper. The skin should slide off fairly easily.
  8. Lift each pepper up and hold it with one hand, while using your other hand to squeeze down the pepper’s length. The bulk of the seeds and pulp should drop out the bottom.

 

Please share your pepper preparation or cooking tips and recipes. We want to learn how you are cooking healthier with peppers.

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