Also commonly known as peppers, sweet peppers and chilis, the capsicum has been around for thousands of years. They originated in the Americas, and have only been grown widely in New Zealand for the last 30 to 40 years. Technically a fruit, because they contain seeds, capsicums are widely thought of as vegetables. They come in a variety of colors: red, green, yellow, orange, as well as purple and white.
Capsicums, or peppers, have a satisfyingly juicy and crunchy texture, with a subtle sweet and spicy flavor. The taste also varies among the different colors of fruit. Green capsicums are the least ripened, and have a stronger flavor, with a hint of bitterness. Red capsicums are simply green peppers that have been left on the vine longer to ripen. They tend to be a bit sweeter and milder, as well as the orange and yellow varieties. The white membrane and seeds found inside the fruit should not be eaten, but cut out and discarded.
Like other deeply colored fruits and vegetables, capsicums are packed with many healthful nutrients. In fact, they contain up to three times the amount of vitamin C as any citrus fruit. They are also high in other antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamin E, and have almost all of the B vitamins. Eating fresh capsicums have also been shown to help aid the digestive system and combat indigestion, or even stomach ulcers, colic, dyspepsia and diarrhea.
How to Eat
Fresh capsicums can be sliced or diced and added to salads or served with a dip. Because of their vibrant hue, they can add some nice color to any dish. They can be added to stir-fry dishes, or cut into chunks and included in a kabob and grilled. With the tops removed, their bell shape makes them perfect for stuffing with rice and/or meat and baking. They can also be roasted to bring out the flavor and color, and added to pasta salads, pizzas or made into dips.
Capsicums do best stored in the refrigerator in the vegetable drawer, placed in a plastic bag. They will stay fresh for a week this way. It is even possible to freeze capsicums. Wash and dry them and freeze them whole. When needed, use them directly from the freezer, rather than defrosting them first.