Harvest of the month: Sweet peppers | TheUnion.com

Harvest of the month: Sweet peppers

Now that the days are getting shorter and fall is upon us, students at 12 local schools are tasting the last, sweet, red vestiges of a hot, long summer.

That’s right, the Harvest of the Month featured item for October is none other than sweet peppers from Mountain Bounty Farm!

Here are some fun fact about peppers:

— A 1/2 cup serving of sweet peppers (green, yellow and red) is an excellent source of vitamin C.

— A 1/2 cup serving of sweet red peppers is also a good source of vitamin B6, which helps your body build healthy blood cells.

— The pepper plant is a member of the Solanaceae or “nightshade” family, which also includes tomatoes and potatoes.

— As bell peppers mature (become red), their taste becomes sweeter and milder.

— About 9,000 years ago, the wild pepper plant originated near Bolivia and Peru. It was later cultivated for its fruits by the Olmecs, Toltecs and Aztecs.

— Peppers were named by Christopher Columbus and Spanish explorers who were searching for peppercorn plants to produce black pepper. Columbus took samples of a wide variety of peppers back to Europe where they became popular. Peppers are used as a food, condiment, spice and medicine. Since then, peppers have also been introduced to Africa and Asia.

In addition to tasting peppers in school for the Harvest of the Month in October, Sierra Harvest’s partners schools are also participating in “Tasting Week” (Oct. 21-25) where guest chefs come into schools and perform cooking demos in selected classrooms.

We are working with local chefs such as Ike Frazee, Wendy Van Wagner, Shan Kendall and Carlos Trujillo and many more. They will be showcasing seasonal, healthy foods and getting students excited about cooking.

In other local food-related news, journalist and activist Michael Pollan will be speaking at the Grass Valley Veteran¹s Memorial Auditorium on Nov. 8. Join Sierra Harvest and the BriarPatch in attending this special event, which is sure to be interesting and engaging about food and culture.

Did you know Michael Pollan loves peppers? (We don¹t know either, but let’s assume he does.)

Here’s a simple recipe we think he (and you) will enjoy:

Roasted Pepper Sauce

6 red peppers (sweet bell peppers)

3 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for taste and consistency

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Roast and peel the peppers (Place whole peppers over a grill or gas burner and cook, turning as necessary, until charred all over or put in the oven.)

Set peppers aside. For softer peppers, cover them; for firmer peppers, leave them uncovered (see above). Let peppers sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

Pull out the stem and core, as well as any seeds, and slip off the charred skin from each pepper. You can pull them into pieces as well, if you like. Make it really easy on yourself and do all this under running water, if you like.

Chop the peppers roughly.

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the garlic, salt and chopped peppers. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers look silky and the flavors have blended, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and whirl until very smooth. Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil, if necessary, to achieve a very smooth texture. (Or leave it chunky!)

Stir in the lemon juice. Add more salt and/or lemon juice to taste. Warm gently, if necessary. Use on freshly cooked pasta, over broiled or grilled chicken, or on baked or grilled fish.

Amanda Thibodeau works with Sierra Harvest Farm to School.

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