BY DEBRA J. MORRIS
Peppers are arriving! Everything from sweet bell peppers to the hottest habaneros is now at the farmers’ market. Toss on the grill, slice and dice in salads, stuff with cheese and rice or sweet Brentwood corn. Versatile and delicious, peppers are rich in antioxidants and other good things to keep you healthy and full of energy during the hot summer months. Besides, they taste delicious!
Hotness in peppers is determined by the amount of capsaicin present. Capsaicin, an acrid, volatile alkaloid, is a general irritant that attacks any tissue it contacts. This leads to the question of why many people love to eat ‘hot’ peppers. Eating chili peppers releases neurotransmitters. These proteins cause the sensations of burning or pain. The body responds by increasing heart rate, increasing the metabolism, and by increasing salivation. Endorphins are also produced by the body in response to capsaicin, which may account for the feeling of pleasure and well-being.
Sweet bell peppers, on the other hand, are cultivars of the species of plant called Capsicum annuum. Jalapeño, pimento, eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes are all members of this nightshade family. Colors range from green, red, yellow, and orange. Why the different colors? It depends on when they were harvested. Because they are unripe, green peppers are less sweet and slightly bitter than the reds, oranges, and yellows. The colors then change progressively from yellow to orange to red, getting sweeter as they ripen further. The longer they stay on the vine, the sweeter they get.
Find both mild and hot peppers at your Martinez Farmers’ Market from J&M Farms out of Gilroy, and Rudy Bungcayao Farm in Stockton.
• 1 cup red bell peppers, finely chopped
• 1 cup green bell peppers, finely chopped
• 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded, minced
• 1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes
• 6-1/2 cups sugar
• 2 pouches liquid pectin
In a large pot, stir together chopped bell peppers and jalapeño peppers, vinegar, pepper flakes, and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Gradually add pectin, put back on heat, stirring constantly. Return jelly to vigorous boil, stirring constantly; boil 1 to 2 minutes. Mixture will thicken slightly. Remove from heat. Fill sterilized jars, add lids and rings; process 15 minutes. Remove from water bath and let cool on the counter, listening for lids to “pop” to ensure seal. As the jars cool, turn jars upside down, and then right side up every half hour or so to ensure peppers don’t float and are evenly mixed in the jelly.