If there is one vegetable that would grab the attention even from a novice cook in a veggie store, in all seasons and for all good reasons, then that’s capsicum. Easy to cook, crunchy to bite, this non-spicy chilli with hollow interiors clumped with a bunch of seeds around the top layer, available in dark green, bright yellow and lively red colours is perhaps the only vegetable that would well go in any cuisine worldwide or dish, be it soups, salads, curries, gravies, pizzas, pastas etc. 

capsicum 1

Also known as bell pepper, this popular veggie is botanically classified into fruit but is a vegetable from a pure culinary point of view. Though a pepper, capsicums are native to Mexico, Central America and Northern South America. While Botanists believe that these seeds were imported to Spain around 1493 and had later become quite popular across Europe, historians credit Christopher Columbus for not only introducing this delicious vegetable to the Europeans but also adding it to the ‘pepper’ family. Also Read: Believe In The Health Benefits Of Black Pepper

Capsicum or bell pepper belongs to the species Capsicum annuum and it is the most commonly cultivated among the five domesticated capsicums – including Jalapenos, New Mexico Chile, Cayenne Peppers, mild and hot Peppers. 

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Why Do We Call It A Capsicum?

‘Capsicum’ is the name of the genus of the flowering plant and it is derived from the Greek word ‘Kapto’ meaning bite or swallow. Since bell peppers are actually ‘pepper fruits’, they can be just eaten like that. 

bell pepper

Is Capsicum and Bell Pepper The Same?

Well, though there are many theories if these both names can be attributed to this single vegetable, there is no denying the fact that it all looks the same.  While the term bell pepper is quite common in the US, Canada and the Philippines and it is colloquially called capsicum in India, UK, Malaysia and other Asian countries. It is surprising to note that in few parts of US, stuffed and pickled bell peppers are often referred to as ‘mangoes.’

In India, capsicum has become a staple vegetable in both North and South Indian cuisines in recent years. Often referred as Shimla Mirch in Hindi as it was first grown in Shimla in our country, it is known as Bengaluru Mirapakaaya in Telugu, Donne Menasu (bowl-shaped chilly) in Kannada and Parangi Mulagu (foreign chilly) in Malayalam. 

Few botanists, however, argue that capsicum belongs to the flowering plant named Solanaceae and the main difference between bell peppers and capsicum depends upon the amount of capsaicin, a lipophilic chemical responsible for creating that burning and spicy sensation in the mouth. 

Bell pepper doesn’t contain capsaicin, owing to its residual gene and may not give that spicy taste like a real ‘capsicum.’ 

A self-pollinating plant, Capsicum annum grows and becomes productive in warm and hot environments than compared to cold regions. 

How Hot Is Capsicum?

The spiciness of food items is measured by the Scoville Heat Unit scale and going by its standards, the amount of heat generated by bell peppers is zero! But, if you are actually looking for tasty bell pepper, let us tell you a trick. 

The next time you are buying a green, red or yellow capsicum look at the bottom and count the lobes. If it has four lobes, then it is a female pepper with more seeds and it tastes sweet. If it has three lobes, then it is a male pepper and it will have fewer seeds and may not be very sweet. While female capsicums go well with salads, you can use male capsicums for roasting and stuffed curries. 

Capsicum in Traditional Medicine:

Ever since it was introduced to other parts of the world by Christopher Columbus, capsicum has become an integral part of the world cuisine. Though it is widely available in green, red, orange and yellow colours, it is also rarely found in white, lavender, brown and even dark purple depending on the cultivator. 

Though Ayurveda doesn’t mention extensively about capsicum in its ancient texts, modern Ayurvedic practitioners believe that it can reduce vata and kapha doshas but can increase physical problems associated with pitta dosha. Also Read: Introduction To Ayurveda: Learn About Vata, Pitta And Kapha Doshas

Capsicum or bell peppers are 94% water, 5% carbohydrates, with a very little amount of protein and fat. These bright coloured vegetables are quite high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, besides ample amounts of Vitamins B2, B6, E, niacin, folate and riboflavin. Being a good source of potassium, iron, magnesium, manganese and other macro-nutrients, capsicums can offer a host of health benefits. 

Protects Heart Health:

Capsicum annuum is credited with reducing the levels of high blood cholesterol, triglycerides and also regulates heart rate and hypertension. Studies reveal that regular intake of capsicum in daily diet aids in improving the platelet count and clotting. Also Read: Top 10 Superfoods For A Healthy Heart

Boosts Metabolism:

Bell Peppers are credited for increasing body temperature thus kick-starting the metabolism and flushing out the toxins. It can open up the sweat glands thus facilitating the detoxification. Also Read: 6 Ways To Boost Your Metabolism

Improves Resistance:

The high amounts of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, beta-carotene help in building the immunity and also decreasing the inflammation. It is highly recommended to include capsicum in a daily diet, if you are suffering from chronic inflammation. 

Regulates Digestion:

Bell peppers are known for improving digestion by introducing natural warmth into the body. It can trigger peristaltic movement in the intestines, flushes out waste, improves appetite. Being carminative in nature, this colourful veggie helps in relieving problems associated with excessive flatulence. If you are suffering from regular colic, add this super veggie to your daily diet to deal with gastrointestinal issues. Also Read: 7 Foods To Improve Gut Digestion

Builds Respiratory Health:

Traditional medicine recommends consuming capsicum for better respiratory health and fighting infections. Sprinkle a little bit of paprika powder in warm water and gargle to clear the sore throat. Also Read: Lung Power: Refreshing Recipes That Can Make You Breathe Easy

Do All Bell Peppers Taste The Same?

Capsicum or bell peppers are available in different colours in India – green, red, yellow and orange are most commonly found in the market. Though all coloured bell peppers come from the same plant, their nutritional value and flavour differ depending upon their age, time of harvest, etc. 

Red bell pepper is the ripest and mature version of green capsicum while yellow and orange hues are found in between. 

Green, Yellow and Orange Peppers: 

Green capsicum is slightly bitter and less sweet to taste as compared to yellow, orange versions of it. While greener ones are far crunchier and used extensively in cooking, yellow and orange capsicums add vibrancy to the dishes like salads.

bell pepper powder

Are Red Bell Peppers Healthier Than Green, Yellow and Orange?

Red bell peppers are however the most mature version, loaded with nutrition and sweet to taste. They contain nine times more beta-carotene than green, yellow and orange bell peppers and double the amount of Vitamin C and Vitamin A. In addition to that, if you include red pepper in your daily, rest assured that it will provide you with 10% of your daily Vitamin E requirement. Red capsicums are also a rich source of Vitamin B6 and can help in avoiding the risk of breast cancer

Lycopene a common antioxidant found abundantly in tomatoes is also present in red bell pepper. It is anti-cancerous and it also contains two carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein. 

If you are at the risk of bone-related ailments, it’s time you include red bell peppers in your diet plan. A natural source of manganese, this bright red veggie produces bone-building enzymes and the magnesium aids in preventing neurological disorders. A bell pepper which is of a fist-size can meet up to 2.5 grams of dietary fibre requirement.  

Culinary Uses:

Capsicum or bell pepper is a common vegetable used in salads, pizza toppings and in soups. One of the famous products made from capsicum is Paprika.

How Is Paprika Made?

Paprika adds vibrant colour and smoky, sharp and pungent flavour to your dish and is a staple ingredient in middle eastern and western cuisine. The flavour of paprika ranges from mild to hot, depending on the variety of chilli pepper used in making it. 

It is usually made by air-drying the bell peppers and later ground into a fine powder. Paprika is of Hungarian origin and it was first used in 1896 by the Europeans. 

At present Hungary is the largest producer of Paprika in the world and it is graded depending on the taste and flavour. It is usually available in three versions – mild, mildly spicy and spicy. The most common and famous variety is the Spanish Paprika which possesses smoky flavour as it gets dried on oak wood. 

Capsicum Recipes:

Be it green, red or yellow, capsicum adds extra zing, flavour and taste your dish. It is quite easy to cut and can be cooked in a jiffy. While a wide range of South and North Indian dishes can be made with this incredibly tasty vegetable. We bring you two popular bell pepper dishes.

stuffed capsicum

Stuffed Capsicum in Tomato Gravy:

Ingredients:

6 green capsicums

For Stuffing:

1 tsp cumin or jeera

1 tsp ginger, garlic paste

1 cup mashed vegetables including beans, carrots and peas

½ cup boiled and mashed potato

½ cup crumbled paneer

Oil for shallow frying

Salt to taste

For Gravy:

2 cups ripe tomatoes, finely chopped

1 tsp cumin or jeera

1 cup onion, finely cut

1 tsp garlic, finely cut

1 tsp ginger, julienne

15 cashew nuts, roughly chopped

1 tsp chillies

½ tsp coriander powder

½ tsp cumin powder

½ tsp chilli powder 

½ tsp garam masala

Oil as required 

Salt to taste

Method:

For Stuffing:

Cut the top layer of the capsicum and remove it along with the stem

Boil the vegetables in hot water for 2 minutes, remove immediately and dip in cold water

In a kadhai, heat oil, add cumin seeds and let it crackle. Add ginger-garlic paste, mashed vegetables crumbled paneer and salt

Mix well and let it cook for 3 to 5 minutes

Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and stuff it in the capsicum. Top it with more crumbled paneer

Pre-heat oven at 180 degrees. Arrange the capsicum in an oven-proof dish and bake it for 12 to 15 minutes or till it is cooked completely. 

For Gravy:

In a kadhai, heat oil and saute cashew nuts till it turns golden brown. Grind it into a paste

In the remaining oil, add onions, ginger-garlic paste and green chilli. Sauté for a minute

Add tomatoes, coriander powder, chilli powder, jeera powder, garam masala and give it a good stir

Cook the gravy thickens and leaves oil by the sides. Add cashew cream and salt, give it a stir 

Keep it aside

How To Serve

This delicious curry can be served along with plain basmati rice, jeera rice, rotis or with any other flavoured rice item. In a plate, keep capsicum and pour hot gravy over it. Serve immediately.

Nutrition:

Capsicum or bell pepper is high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C and it helps in boosting immunity and fight infections. Tomatoes too are a great source of vitamin C, lycopene, potassium, folate and vitamin K. Cashew nuts are rich in fibre, healthy fats and are rich in copper, magnesium and manganese which play a major role in regulating body functions. Cumin, coriander powders help in improving digestion. 

Aloo, Capsicum Masala:

capsicum alu curry

Ingredients:

1 green capsicum, roughly chopped

1 red capsicum, roughly chopped

2 big potatoes, cut into small cubes

½ tsp cumin powder

½ tsp coriander powder

½ tsp garam masala

½ tsp kasuri methi

¼ tsp amchur or dry mango powder

½ tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder

¼ tsp turmeric powder

Oil for shallow fry

Salt to taste

Method:

In a pan, heat oil, saute potatoes. Fry till they are 80% done.

Add roughly chopped capsicum, fry till tender

Stir in cumin powder, coriander powder, chilli powder, turmeric, amchur and garam masala. Give it a good stir.

Sprinkle kasuri methi. Sprinkle a little bit of water, put the lid on and let it cook on low flame for 5 minutes.

Mix the curry one more time and serve hot with rotis or rice

Nutrition:

Green capsicums are crunchy to taste while red capsicums are a rich of Vitamin C, Vitamin A and beta carotene. Cumin can stimulate digestion while coriander plays a major role in flushing out toxins. Turmeric is a natural antibiotic and builds immunity while other spices in garam masala help in gaining natural resistance against various infections. Amchur or dry mango powder not only adds intense flavour to the dish but provides ample amounts of Vitamin C while kasuri methi aids in controlling blood sugars. 

Conclusion:

Call it capsicum or bell pepper, this bowl-shaped vegetable that comes in different hues including green, yellow, orange and red is a staple ingredient in Indian kitchens. It may be surprising to note that all these coloured capsicums come from the same vine and the taste, seeds and texture of the vegetable depends on when it was harvested. 

While red bell peppers are considered nutritionally rich, green, yellow and orange capsicums go well with a wide range of dishes. Though technically from chilli family, the spice levels of this ‘pepper fruits’ is zero. Include bell peppers in your diet plan for good fibre content and to enjoy the goodness of Vitamins A, C and B6.