Fresh & Local: Chile Peppers
How theyâ€™re grown: There are many different chile peppers, including the more common jalapeno, cayenne and paprika. Most chile peppers are grown in the states of California and New Mexico, the country of Mexico or the continent of Africa. Chiles are a warm-season crop, often planted in the spring, in one- to three-clump groups and spaced 6â€ť-12â€ť apart. Theyâ€™re ready to pick 120-165 days later.
How to shop for them: The most desirable type of chile pepper is one thatâ€™ss mildly pungent: just enough kick to ignite the senses, but not to set your mouth ablaze. These peppers register on the Scoville scale between 0-50,000 units, which is considered medium-heat intensity. Chile peppers are often sold as a whole pepper or diced for easy add-ins to recipes.
How to store them: Chiles evoke their best flavor at an ambient temperature on your home countertop, for about two to four days after purchase. However, storing them in the refrigerator can extend shelf life for up to an additional 10 days. If you intend to use chile peppers in the future, they can be kept in the freezer for up to eight months after being blanched.
How to prepare them: Always rinse fresh produce and gently scrub with a bristle brush. Use a paring knife to cut off the stem of the pepper and discard or add to compost. Cut the pepper itself width- or length-wise, including julienned or finely diced methods. Chile peppers can also be cut into medium-sized pieces and minced to mix back into foods in small amounts. They can also be dried to add atop recipes.
How to eat them: The heat of chile peppers pairs well with creamy ingredients, such as dairy or nondairy cheeses and milks. Consider adding a light spread of diced or dried chile peppers to a low-fat casserole, macaroni dish or potato soup. A touch of chile also does very well in homemade, low-fat tacos, burritos, nachos or pizza.
Nutritional highlights: Chile peppers are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium. Plus, theyâ€™re cholesterol-, fat- and sodium-free.
For more information, visit TheLittleClinic.com/Dietitians.