The capsicum is a species of pepper native to the Americas. Before the Columbian Exchange during which plants, animals, culture and ideas were passed amongst the Americas, West Africa, and the Old World in the 15th and 16th centuries, the capsicum had been cultivated in the Americas for thousands of years. Now, capsicum is a crucial ingredient in many cuisines and is cultivated across the globe.
Capsicums have only been readily available in New Zealand for the last 30 to 40 years. Capsicums belong to the tomato and potato family and come in a variety of shapes and colours. Capsicums are seed pods and can be red, green, yellow, orange, white, purple, brown and lime green. Some of the most popular varieties of capsicums include Target, Sweet Banana, Sweet Conical, Midas, Chocolate Beauty and Californian Wonder. One variety of capsicum, Capsicum annuum, is dried and crushed as paprika powder, which can be used in a wide range of dishes. Capsicums need warmth to ripen, so the best time to plant them in New Zealand is August through to November. They are best grown in a garden pot, or sunny spot, so long as the soil is rich and fertile.
Capsicums are a versatile vegetable that can be used in a variety of ways, in a broad range of culinary dishes. Capsicums can be baked, grilled, roasted, stir-fried and stuffed. Favourite ways in which capsicums are eaten include raw in salads, fresh with dips and garnishes, roasted on skewer kebabs, and baked and stuffed with a variety of fillings. To best prepare capsicum, one can slice off the stem and remove the seeds and inner membranes. Depending on what dish the capsicum is to be used in, one can slice the empty capsicum into chunks or strips, or simply remove the ‘lid’ and fill it with rice and beef, for example.
Capsicums are a good source of vitamin C and vitamin B6. Red, yellow, and orange capsicums are a source of folate, as well. Red capsicums are particularly high in vitamin C compared to other colours. Furthermore, red and orange capsicums are a source of vitamin A.