Last week Tuesday, I focused on one of my favorite plants to grow (and harvest!) in the garden – Heirloom Tomatoes. Today, I decided to feature another one of my favorites, not only for their vibrant colors and versatility, but also their health benefits: peppers!

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Peppers come in pretty much all shades of the rainbow and range in taste from the hot and spicy Tabasco Premium Pepper to the sweet and tangy flavor of the Red Beauty Bell Pepper! The most interesting thing I find when cooking with vegetables is how some seem to absorb other flavors, therefore accentuating the already present flavors in the dish (such as zucchini, squash, and eggplant) and others, like peppers, are much more aggressive in their flavors, introducing a new taste entirely to a salad, pasta, or appetizer. For instance, I was delightfully surprised the other day when I was trying a Potato Soup recipe for the first time in my slow-cooker. The recipe called for one jar of roasted sweet red peppers. I actually ended up using fresh red peppers which I first roasted  in the oven (super easy to do!) and then added to the soup mixture. The red peppers added such a tasty zing to the soup, completely changing it from a potentially bland potato flavor to a delightfully tangy (and colorful) dish.

Not only do peppers add great flavor and color to many kitchen dishes, they also are packed with nutrients! Even though for a while they were ignored as being a fruit (yes, technically a fruit, not a vegetable) with little nutritional value, they are now being praised for their high levels of antioxidants and various essential vitamins. WebMD states that peppers, whether mild or fiery, are some of the richest sources of vitamins A and C and that just a cup a day can provide more than 100% of your daily needs for these two vitamins! You can’t say that about many foods! The article goes on to say that the noteworthy antioxidant (capsaicin) which hot peppers contain, actually has been recently found to help with weight loss as it slightly curbs appetite and raises the body temperature, creating an increase of calorie burn. Capsaicin has also been shown to “fire a lethal blow”, as the article puts it, to cancer cells in recent studies performed at UCLA. While nothing’s been proven in this regard to humans, it’s still definitely worth looking into. Besides, with the other proven health benefits peppers boast of, you have nothing to lose by adding peppers to your next grocery list!

Now that I’ve told you some of the remarkable reasons I love peppers, I’d like to share just a few of my favorites:

Red Beauty Pepper

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Red peppers have always been my absolute fave because of their sweet taste and extra crispy flesh. These add wonderful color to pasta salads — and also the potato soup I mentioned above! They can also be eaten while still green, but are ripest (and tastiest, in my opinion) when bright red.

Big Bertha Premium Pepper

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Talk about bang for your buck, this pepper is one of the largest produced! Most times reaching up to 7″ in length, this tender guy is perfect for filling with cheesy beef goodness. Stuffed Peppers, anyone?

Cayenne Pepper

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Turn up the heat with this one! If you’re looking to give that pot of chili a little kick, this is the one for you! I personally love this (in very small amounts!) chopped very finely into my homemade salsa — although I usually split the batch and leave one half without for the kids.

Hungarian Hot Wax Pepper

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While I have never actually done the canning process myself, these are amazing when pickled in an Italian marinade! Commonly seen on the side of pizza from an authentic restaurant, these peppers are not the hottest out there, but give a perfect little bit of spice with a great Italian dish.

As if that’s not enough, one more thing I have to say about peppers: they are extremely easy to grow and care for. So, if this is your first attempt at your own fruit or vegetable garden, peppers are an excellent place to start!. Just pick your perfect one and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy, flavorful summer!

With hands in the dirt and head in the clouds,

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