The Medicinal Value of Peppers
Bell peppers and chili peppers are common staples that add flavor and color to our meals, and they are easy to grow in a home garden.
The heat of peppers is measured in Scoville heat units.
A green pepper scores a Zero on the scale, jalapeño peppers earn around 2,500 to 4,000 and Mexican habaneros, 200,000 to 500,000 units.
There are many different types of peppers, from sweet to flaming hot, making more than 1 variety useful in a single dish, adding complexity to the flavors.
Popular pepper varieties include bell, Chile, banana, Hungarian, cayenne, jalapeno, Serrano, habañeros and others.
Sweet and mild-tasting bell peppers can be sautéed with onions or diced into salads, soups and casseroles; stuffed, grilled, placed on sandwiches, or eaten raw for a fresh snack.
Green, red and yellow bell peppers all contain phenolic compounds, ascorbic acid, carotenoids and free radical scavenging activity.
Green peppers have the highest phenolic activitym, but lower carotenoid content than the red and yellow varieties.
Red peppers have the highest ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and a higher level of free radical scavenging activity.
The active ingredient in hot chili peppers is capsaicin, which is what makes our mouths burn and gives the peppers their pungent odor. The smaller the pepper the hotter it tends to be.
The endorphin rush capsaicin triggers makes this compound an effective remedy for pain and other medical conditions.
Research also suggests it helps shrink fat tissue, inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells, and may even reduce your risk of Parkinson’s disease by nearly 20% when eaten regularly.
Chili peppers also contain other beneficial bioactive plant compounds, including, the following:
Capsanthin. This is the primary carotenoid (antioxidant) in red chili peppers, giving them their red color and typically accounting for up to 50% of the spice’s antioxidant content
Lutein. Most plentiful in immature (green) chili peppers, it has been shown to help maintain and improve eye health
Violaxanthin. It is the main carotenoid found in yellow chili peppers, which accounts for 37 to 68% of their total content
Sinapic acid. Also known as sinapinic acid, this antioxidant is known for its neuroprotective potential.
Ferulic acid. This compound has shown promise in protecting against diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Peppers are easy to grow
Whether you are growing bell peppers from seed or using store-bought seedlings, begin by selecting and preparing the site. Peppers need lots of Sun and grow best in deep, loamy, well-drained soil where peppers have not previously been grown, so move them around your garden if growing several years in a row.
Add about 1 in of compost to the soil, but avoid adding too much nitrogen, as this can cause excessively rapid growth, making the plants larger and bushier but less productive and more prone to disease.
If growing from seed, start the seeds indoors eight to 10 wks before the last frost date, find frost dates for your local area by checking The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which is available online.
Soak the seeds in lukewarm water for a few hours and keep the seed tray in a warm spot to encourage germination.
Before you transplant your seedlings into your garden, gradually expose them to outdoor conditions. By reducing stress, the plants will become larger and more productive.
Begin by placing them in an area sheltered from high wind and excessive sun exposure for a few hours a day for three or four days once daytime temperatures are consistently in the mid-60s. Over the following week, slowly increase the number of hours you leave them outdoors.
Pepper plants grow best in warm soil, so if the garden bed is still cool, warm the soil by placing a dark landscape paper over the area. Also make sure all threat of frost is over and nighttime temperatures are above 60 F before planting them in the ground.
Growing chili peppers takes about 6 months so you should plant them by May, although starting early is recommended so the plant will ripen just in time for Summer.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively.