Local markets are now at their most impressive: There are still reminders of summer in the last baskets of peaches, the boxes of ever-bearing strawberries and piles of corn. And hints of autumn with pears, early apples and winter squashes beginning to appear. But my favourite (at the moment!) are peppers.
The variety is amazing. Along with the usual red, yellow and green bell peppers, one of the farmers I buy from also grows some less common varieties:Long red shepherds which are sweet and can be used in any recipe you would use a red bell; Deep green, mildly spicy poblanos (these are more of a rarity, but if you find them, grill, peal and add to any Mexican sauce or dish); and yellow banana, hot Portuguese and jalapeno varieties, for even a stronger hit of hot (okay, I’m chicken when it comes to the very hot habanero he also grows). Or, best of all, purchase a variety of sweet and hot peppers, cut them into slices and slowly stew with some sautéed onion and a couple of chopped ripe tomatoes’a perfect, end-of-summer pasta sauce. Also try our Cheese Baked Pepper with Linguine and Easy Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken to get more peppers into your day.
Of course as well as great flavour, all these peppers add significant nutrients to any dish with loads of vitamin B6, which helps maintain red blood cells and is important in maintaining blood sugar levels. And research has shown that capsaicin’the compound that gives hot red peppers (or chilies) their kick’can boost our metabolism, enhancing weight-loss efforts. As well, researchers at the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition are looking at capsaicin-like compounds found in some sweet peppers that provide similar positive metabolic-boosting effects’but without the burning lips and mouth. (For more on the health benefits of peppers and some fresh and tasty ideas for using them, see ‘Peppers Galore’ in the September issue of Best Health’on newsstands now.)