The sweet peppers, also called bell peppers and capsicums, are varieties of Capsicum annuum, a species to which the hot chilli peppers also belong. The only differences are the size of the sweet peppers which are many times larger than the chillis and the fac that the sweet peppers have no capsaicin, the agent that causes the hot sensation. The capsicums are native to Mexico and Central America where there are records of cultivation for seven thousand years and perhaps longer. The peppers arrived in Europe about 1500, the hot kinds probably first as a substitute for the true pepper. Their cultivation spread to Asia subsequently.
Although the sweet pepper has been in Europe for over five hundred years, it only found its way on the kitchen table in this country in recent decades, and into greenhouses and gardens even more recently. The capsicum is a warm climate plant and really needs to be grown indoors at this latitude but the newer more vigorous varieties can give good results outdoors in a warm sunny, sheltered place. It is related to tomato and not all that difficult to grow, if the conditions are right. The main colour is red - the green ones are not yet ripe but can be used - and there are yellow, orange and purple varieties too.
Cooking sweet peppers
The sweet pepper is a very versatile fruit. Like the tomato, it can be used in many ways, both cooked and fresh. It can be used as an ingredient in many dishes and it is good at absorbing the flavour of other vegetables and herbs, while imparting its own distinctive taste. It is a very good source of vitamin C and vitamin A, good in fibre with little fat and low in calories.