In Season: sweet peppers


Cooking demos:

9 a.m. Saturday: Chef Kevin Gillespie of Gun Show working with sweet potatoes. Morningside Farmers Market, Atlanta.

10 a.m. Saturday: Chef Steven Satterfield of Miller Union. Peachtree Road Farmers Market, Atlanta.

Chef demos are held at many farmers markets. Check your local market’s Facebook page or website for information.


Vegetables and fruit: apples, arugula, Asian greens, beans, beets, carrots, chestnuts, collards, cucumbers, eggplant, field peas, garlic, ginger, herbs, kale, lettuce, Malabar spinach, melons, mizuna, muscadines, mushrooms, mustard greens, okra, onions, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, spaghetti squash, spring onions, summer squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turmeric, turnips, winter squash

From local reports

Chris Gordon and Erica Ferguson like to grow heirloom, and what Ferguson refers to as “obscure” varieties of vegetable favorites. In early fall, “Berkeley Tie Dye” tomatoes jostle for table space with deep red “Marconi” peppers at their booths at the Saturday morning Sandy Springs and Marietta farmers markets.

Gordon and Ferguson are the farmers of Owl Pine Farm in Rockmart. This is their fifth year farming on what began as a small backyard garden and became three acres of food production. It’s part of a much larger tract of land they live on, 600 acres that are owned by Gordon’s grandfather. They sell their produce at a farm stand in Rome and through a community supported agriculture program, as well as at the farmers markets.

This year, they set out 300 pepper plants. They grew orange and purple bell peppers and Marconi peppers, as well as poblanos and a few hot peppers such as the “mushroom” pepper, a very hot heirloom variety. Ferguson’s father and grandparents knew this same variety as “squash” pepper since the fruit looks a little bit like a patty pan squash.

“Peppers are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. They have few pests and they’re very drought tolerant,” said Ferguson.

And once they start bearing, they just keep on. The plants will bear peppers until frost and will survive a light frost with a little cover, and keep on producing.

She finds that many of her customers don’t recognize sweet peppers if they’re not the green or red varieties they’re accustomed to. “They get excited that peppers come in so many different colors,” she said.

If their customers don’t buy up all the pepper crop, Ferguson likes to quarter them, toss them with olive oil and then roast them. She freezes the roasted peppers and uses them throughout the winter. Or she’ll chop up a hot pepper and mix it with cream cheese and then stuff that into a roasted pepper for a healthier take on a jalapeno popper. Perhaps the simplest recipe of all is her 5-year-old’s favorite, colorful strips of fresh bell pepper to dip in hummus.

Stuffed Peppers

Parboiling the peppers shortens the baking time. Adapt them for weeknight cooking by putting these together ahead of time and baking when it’s time to serve dinner.

4 medium sweet peppers, tops, seeds and membranes discarded

4 ounces turkey sausage

1 tablespoon grated onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 1/2 cups fresh whole wheat bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus extra for garnish

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease individual ramekins or an 8-inch baking dish.

If needed to make the peppers stand upright, cut a small slice from the bottom. If peppers are long and narrow, cut them in half lengthwise and use two halves per serving.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add peppers and cook 2 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.

In a small skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until almost done. Add onion and garlic and cook until sausage is cooked through. Remove from heat and stir in bread crumbs, Parmesan and basil. Taste for seasoning.

Divide stuffing between peppers and arrange peppers in prepared baking dish or ramekins. If you have extra stuffing, put it in another ramekin. Drizzle with oil. Cover with foil. Bake 10 minutes, then uncover and bake 15 minutes more or until topping begin to brown. Serve hot, garnished with chopped basil. Serves: 4

Per serving: 285 calories (percent of calories from fat, 28), 15 grams protein, 40 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 10 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 4 milligrams cholesterol, 713 milligrams sodium.