It's pepper season at the farmers market. Peppers for pickles, salsa, stuffed peppers and jalapeno poppers are abundant at your local farmer's market this year.
There are 50,000 varieties of peppers ranging from the typical green pepper on grocery shelves year-round to Carolina Reapers. What set's peppers apart? The Scoville Heat Index, of course.
Some people don't like peppers, and some people especially don't like hot peppers, and then there are the brave souls that dare to explore the high end of the Scoville Scale.
First off, the Scoville Scale and Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) were named for scientist Wilbur Scoville in 1912 for measuring a chili pepper's pungency and heat. SHU represents the amount of capsaicin present. The higher the rating, the hotter the pepper.
To determine the SHU, they mix an alcohol extract of capsaicin oil from a dried pepper. Then, they mix it with a solution of water and sugar.
Nowadays, they determine the hotness of peppers by high-performance liquid chromatography. This test measures the chemical capsaicin in chili peppers. However, due to nostalgia, scientists still convert their results back into Scoville units.
Green pepper score 0 on the scale and Reapers range from 1,500,000-2,200,000 SHU. What a difference that would make in your chili recipe. Whew.
Some people can't even tolerate green peppers at 0, but usually it’s because of their stomach or the fact they do not like the sometimes-bitter taste of green pepper. That taste can be removed simply by peeling your pepper. How? Might you ask? Roasting. You can roast peppers on the grill, on your gas stove burners or under a broiler. Just heat at a high temperature until they are blackened all around. Place them in a paper bag and let them steam for a bit until cool enough to handle. Remove the core, seeds and stem, and you have a delightful pepper strip that can be used on a sandwich or chopped with some onion and tossed with olive oil and vinegar for a quick side dish. If you use the tri-color pepper packs you find at the store, and you will add some beautiful color to your plate.
And peppers are good for you. Peppers have a lot going for them. They're low in calories and loaded with nutrition. All varieties are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid, and fiber.
Peppers from the farmers market are fantastic. Cutting into a fresh-picked pepper means a potential squirt in the eye cutting through the crisp exterior to the juicy flesh. They also last a long time in your refrigerator. You can also freeze pepper for use during the winter months.
I love jalapenos and leave most of my peppers on the vine until they turn a lovely red. Jalapeno jelly from red peppers is beautiful over cream cheese. And, who doesn't like poppers? If you can't stand the heat, there are jalapeno varieties with all the flavor and none of the heat.
Another new favorite way to eat the abundant peppers is stuffed. Wait, don't like to make stuffed peppers, well make soup. Stuffed pepper soup is lovely and a one-pot meal on a busy evening. Just brown your hamburger with onions, and maybe celery, add chopped peppers, a jar of home-canned tomatoes, chicken stock and simmer away. Serve in bowls over rice. Your family will love it.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.