Brighten up your day - and your cooking - with the many colours of the capsicum rainbow.

Native to tropical America, the capsicum was introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus. Known as bell peppers in the USA, peppers in the UK and pimientos in Spanish-speaking countries, capsicums are technically a fruit and are closely related to chillies. Paprika and cayenne pepper are different types of capsicums that are dried and ground into powders to make those spices we all love.


Select capsicums that are firm and glossy with a uniform colour. Avoid any capsicums that have dull or wrinkled skin, spots or blemishes.


Capsicums are a very versatile fruit. To prepare, cut in half and remove the seeds and membrane. When preparing the small varieties, cut off the top and scoop out the seeds and membrane. Slice capsicums and use them raw in salads, cooked in kebabs, sprinkled on pizzas, in stir-fries or added to casseroles. They're also delicious stuffed and roasted, barbecued or chargrilled. To roast capsicums, quarter and deseed them, then cook under a grill for 6-8 minutes or until the skin is charred and blistered. Place in a sealable plastic bag and set aside for 5 minutes (the steam in the bag will help lift the skin). Peel off the skin, then slice and add to antipasto platters or pasta sauces, or serve on toasted sourdough bread. You can also puree roasted capsicum and stir through soups, pasta or dips. Capsicum is great with feta, ricotta, lamb, fish, chicken, olives, capers, tomatoes, basil, coriander and lemon.


Keep capsicums in the crisper section or in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge for up to 1 week.


Capsicums come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Some varieties include:


Capsicums are usually sold by colour; all capsicums are green at first, then turn red, orange, yellow or a purple black when they ripen further. Red capsicums are the sweetest due to their higher sugar content, and are rich in vitamin C and beta carotene. Orange and yellow capsicums have almost as much sugar as the red variety, while green ones have a low sugar content due to early picking, which gives them their slightly bitter taste.

Baby red

Baby red capsicums were developed in Japan for single-serve use, these capsicums measure 8cm in diameter and 3-4cm deep. Ideal for stuffing, they're sold in supermarkets in 250g nets.

Vine Sweet Minicaps baby capsicums

This tiny new variety is about 5-7cm long and comes in red, orange and yellow. They are vine ripened for maximum flavour and sweetness, and contain practically no seeds. Great in salads and stir-fries or cooked on the barbecue, Minicaps are sold in supermarkets in 175g punnets.

Related article

Baby red capsicums
How to prepare a capsicum
Vine sweet minicaps

Source — November 2011 , Page 74


Michelle Southan

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