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Capsicum, also called sweet or bell pepper, simply pepper and in some countries paprika belongs to the family of nightshade plants (bot.: Solanaceae).


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Capsicum: Nutrients and classification

The different coloured capsicum varieties do not vary much in their taste. Only the vitamin C content, which is very high in capsicum, differs with the colour of the fruits. Depending on the ripeness it varies between 140 mg (green bell peppers) and 400 mg (red Hungarian Sweet Pepper) per 100g capsicum. Only organic fresh rose hips with 1250 - 1500 mg per 100 g pulp and acerola with 3000 mg per 100 g contain more vitamin C than capsicum. Since the amount of rose hip and acerola in our daily nutrition is negligibly small, capsicum is probably the most effective source of vitamin C in our daily diet. Capsicum varieties do not only vary in colour, they are found in a large number of shapes and sizes as well.


Some are flat and round, others round, blocky, triangular and slender, triangular, heart-shaped or trapezoid. Capsicum varieties are divided into sweet vegetable peppers and hot peppers used as spice. Hot varieties contain more of the alkaloid Capsaicin that is responsible for the spicy taste. Chillies are also hot varieties of the capsicum family. Mild vegetable peppers and tomato peppers do not contain much of the alkaloid. The pharmaceutical industry uses Capsaicin, which is found mainly in the seeds and white fleshy parts, for the production of pain relievers.

Capsicum originally comes from the Americas but is nowadays grown all over the world, in Europe for example in Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Hungary and the Netherlands. Capsicum is native to southern countries and needs light and warm temperatures for its cultivation. In the Netherlands it can only be grown in greenhouses. During the last years many new varieties have been breed, for example in orange, brown, white, violet and black colours.


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Use of capsicum


Capsicum is an extremely versatile food. It can be eaten raw or cooked. In many countries capsicum filled with rice and served with tomato sauce is very popular. It is also used in sauces, with pasta or in rice dishes. Uncooked capsicum is popular in raw vegetable salads.


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Tips for the use of capsicum

Tip: When cooking capsicum in sauces and soups it is important not to use ingredients with a high acidity content, such as wine or lemon juice because otherwise its bright colours will change to brown. Capsicum (of one colour) are best cut into small pieces and cooked with little water until soft. Now it can be pureed and passed through a sieve. Ingredients that contain acidity are added just before serving. When capsicum is served raw as a salad, its vitamin C content is highest because heat destroys vitamins.

Tip: The skin of capsicum is hard to digest. It can easily be removed when the whole fruit is grilled or baked in the oven at 200-220 °C until the skin blisters and is slightly brown, and then quenched in ice water. Pull the skin from the stem to the point and use as usual.


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How peppers are skinned

There are three different methods to remove the skin of capsicum. Which method is used, depends on the intended use.

  • Peeling is best where capsicum will be used for crisp salads. Use a vegetable peeler to thinly peel the skin off.
  • Roasting in the oven gives a strong aroma to the peppers, for example for the preparation of antipasti. Peppers are quartered and seeded and put on a tray skin up. They are put under the very hot oven grill until the skin is blackened and blisters.
  • Boiling is used for dishes that are stewed, but where the peppers should keep their brilliant colour. The peppers are seeded, quartered and boiled in water for 4-5 minutes. Now the skin can be peeled off with a vegetable knife. If the peppers are not used immediately, they can be quenched in salted ice water after peeling.

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