A wonderful combination of tangy taste and crunchy texture, sweet bell peppers are the Christmas ornaments of the vegetable world with their beautifully shaped glossy exterior that comes in a wide array of vivid colors ranging from green, red, yellow, orange, purple, brown to black.
Despite their varied palette, all are the same plant, known scientifically as Capsicum annuum. They are members of the nightshade family, which also includes potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant. Sweet peppers are plump, bell-shaped vegetables featuring either three or four lobes. Green and purple peppers have a slightly bitter flavor, while the red, orange and yellows are sweeter and almost fruity.
Paprika can be prepared from red bell peppers (as well as from chili peppers). Bell peppers are not 'hot'. The primary substance that controls "hotness" in peppers is called capsaicin, and it's found in very small amounts in bell peppers. Although peppers are available throughout the year, they are most abundant and tasty during the summer and early fall months.
Antioxidant Benefits of Bell Peppers
While research studies have tended to focus on carotenoids as the hallmark antioxidants in bell pepper, this vegetable actually provides us with a very broad range of antioxidants. In terms of conventional nutrients, bell pepper is an excellent source of vitamin C at 117 milligrams per cup. (That's more than twice the amount of vitamin C found in a typical orange.)
Bell pepper is also a good source of another antioxidant vitamin--vitamin E. In addition to these conventional antioxidant vitamins, bell pepper is also a good source of the antioxidant mineral manganese.