In the Garden:
Middle South
August, 2004
Regional Report

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1491

They may be pale now, but my 'Karpatia' peppers will triple in nutritional value as they ripen to red.

Thank You, Christopher Columbus

I come from a big family in which picky eaters went hungry, so the only vegetables I didn't like as a kid were peppers and eggplant. My tastes matured, and this year those are the main crops in my summer garden. Columbus gets credit for introducing both vegetables to the New World, though they've come a long way from their humble beginnings. My peppers are vigorous, sweet-flavored hybrids, much more delicious than the spicy peppers used as a condiment by Columbus' crews. My eggplants are dainty darlings perfected in China, the current world leader in production of both crops.

Really Ripe Peppers
A few decades back, sweet pepper meant green pepper, and my childish palate was turned off by their slight bitterness. As truly ripe sweet peppers have entered the market, their popularity has taken off. Between 1990 and 2000, per capita consumption of sweet peppers nearly doubled in the US. At my house it probably tripled. I often eat them at every meal this time of year, and sometimes in between, marveling that top nutrition can taste so great. Underripe green peppers are a good source of vitamins A and C, plus potassium. As peppers ripen to red, their vitamin C content triples, while vitamin A increases tenfold -- a miracle worth the wait.

Ever-Ready Eggplant
As for eggplant, I remember my mother trying to tempt me with big eggplant boats stuffed with shrimp, but I would have none of it. Now I wish someone would make stuffed eggplant for me! I don't like to heat up my house with a hot oven this time of year, so every few days I braise a batch of eggplant slices in a hot, nonstick skillet, and keep them in the fridge ready to layer onto sandwiches, slice and toss into pasta, or puree with garlic and olive oil before spreading over good bread.

Thank you, Christopher Columbus!


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