Peppers are the mild-tasting hollow fruit of a plant that also produces chilli pepper. It originated in Central America but is now grown throughout the world.
Pepper are usually bell-shaped and four-lobed, but the colour can range from green through yellow, orange and red to almost black, depending on how long the individual pepper matures on the plant (the more mature the pepper is, the sweeter it will taste): if green, the pepper was picked when immature; if yellow or orange, the pepper was left to ripen a little longer; and if red, the pepper was completely ripe. Black peppers are similar to green and in fact turn green if left to ripen for long enough.
Other varieties are available such as the long, tapering thin-skinned romano or ramiro. Another thin-skinned type, which varies in taste from mild to pungent, is ground up to make paprika.
Peppers should be firm and glossy with a good colour; avoid any that are blotchy or wrinkly. They will keep in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
Peppers are used raw, usually to add crunch to salads, and cooked. They are often grilled or roasted until the skin is black and blistering, when it can be easily removed to leave smoky-flavoured flesh. Prepared like this, peppers make a good appetizer with olive oil and flavouring herbs, or can be pureed with olive oil, garlic and herbs into a dip or salsa.
Sliced or chopped pepper is added to rice and pasta dishes, and summer stews such as ratatouille. The hollow shape makes it good for stuffing, either whole (stalk end cut off) or halved lengthways, and then baking.