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Why not a purple pepper? Or golden ... as well as green, red.

Why not a purple pepper? Or golden . . . as well as green, red

A vibrant spectrum of sweet peppers is appearing on produce counters. This fall, bell peppers are wearing green, red, golden yellow, even purple. Fresh pimientos are showing off rich crimson coats. Despite their diverse colors--and flavors-- they all belong botanically to the peppers, Capsicum, which also include hot chilies.

Different-colored peppers have existed for centuries, and the current varieties have evolved from those older peppers. Yellow and red peppers have long been popular abroad but in this country have been mostly limited to home gardens. Here, the green bell has dominated the market. But the current interest in unusual vegetables has brought on bright-colored peppers.

Now's the best time to buy sweet peppers in the West: with local crops at their peak, prices are at their lowest. The harvest continues until frost, around November. Then prices vary greatly, depending on source and supply. Peppers of one color or another are steadily available year-round, coming from Mexico, Holland, and warm-climate farming regions of the United States.

Green and red bells: immature to ripe

Time creates the difference between a green and a red bell. The blocky-shaped green pepper ripens to red. When green and immature, it tastes grassy. When ripe and red, it tastes sweet. Because red bells take longer to reach the harvest stage and spoil faster than the greens, they can be less abundant and higher-priced.

Both green and red forms are deliciously crisp when raw. When cooked, the bright green dulls to olive; red bells maintain their brilliant hue.

Golden bells: sweet and mellow

These also start green, developing their yellow color when mature. Grown for years in Europe and recently imported to the United States, golden bells are now being grown commercially in California. Most of those grown here will have the classic bell shape. (Other mild yellow European peppers are longer and pointed; some others are nearly identical in color to the bells and can be quite hot.)

Very sweet and mellow, the yellow bells hold their color when cooked.

Purple bells: skin-deep beauty

Primarily a novelty, purple bell peppers have dark-colored skins but green interiors. Purple when immature, they turn green as they ripen, eventually becoming red. Early harvesting accounts for their somewhat grassy flavor, more pronounced than that of green bells and the least sweet of all the bells.

Eat them raw to appreciate their unique color. When cooked, their purple color fades to khaki.

This hybrid from Holland is relatively new and generally expensive; domestic commercial plantings are very limited. Most of these purple beauties are imported from late winter to early fall.

Pimientos: meaty ref flesh

Heart- or cone-shaped pimientos (or pimentos) are similar to red bells in flavor and slightly sweeter. What distinguishes them is their thick fleshy walls, which make them so popular for preserving. Previously grown only for the canning industry, pimientoes are now available fresh.

Use them as you would red bells. They're especially good roasted to remove their skin; the thicker skin is more noticeable than on bells when cooked.

Cooking peppers

All of these peppers are good raw, and red and yellow bells and pimientos are especially good cooked. These warm-colored peppers are high in vitamins A and C. Heat brings out their mellow sweet flavor; see pages 224 and 225 for a variety of ways to cook and serve them.

One way to preserve bell peppers and pimientos is to roast and freeze them. Roasting concentrates the sweetness and helps separate the skin from the flesh. Freeze in small portions to use later (see additional recipes on page 224).

Roasted Peppers

Place whole red, golden, or green bell peppers, or fresh pimientos, slightly apart on a shallow, rimmed baking pan. Bake, uncovered, in a 400| oven until browned and skin separates from flesh, 25 to 30 minutes. Place in a plastic or heavy paper bag. Close tightly and let sweat 30 minutes. Pull off skins. Cut peppers into halves; discard seeds and stems. Use peppers (see suggestions on page 224), or chill airtight for up to 3 days or freeze in 1-cup portions for longer storage. One pound of fresh peppers (about 4 medium-size) yields about 1 cup roasted peppers.

Purple Bells with Peppercorn Dip

In a blender, combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 clove garlic, 1/4 cup sliced green onion, and 1 tablespoon each green peppercorns (dry or drained canned) and white wine vinegar; whirl sauce until smooth. (If made ahead, cover and chill as long as overnight.)

Cut out stem end of 2 medium-size (about 2 1/2-in.-tall) purple or any other color bell peppers. Remove seeds; reserve caps. Trim bottom slightly, if needed, so pepper can stand. Fill peppers with sauce; replace cap if desired. Remove seeds from 3 or 4 medium-size purple or any other color bell peppers and cut into 1/4-inch strips. Serve strips alongside pepper to dip into dressing. Makes 10 appetizer servings.

Photo: Rainbow of sweet peppers includes (from top to bottom) green and red bells, red pimiento, and golden and purple bells. Color permeates flesh in all except purple bells

Photo: For a salad, arrange anchovies atop marinated roasted pimientos. Marinated pimientos or bell peppers, packed in a jar, keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks

Photo: Purple bell shell holds peppercorn dip; you dunk raw strips with purple skin and green flesh into sauce

Photo: Golden bells, stuffed with spicy Italian sausage, sauteed onions, and creamy Munster cheese, are ready to bake; reserve stems to top peppers as garnish (recipe, page 224)

Photo: Workers harvest pimientos near King City, California. Picked only when red, they are sweeter than red bell peppers
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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Date:Oct 1, 1984
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