The most common type of peppers grown is the 4-lobed, blocky, sweet bell pepper. The peppers are allowed to mature to full colour before harvesting. Red, yellow and orange are the most common colours grown with red being the most popular.
Most greenhouse peppers in Ontario are produced in hydroponic systems. The majority of them are grown in rockwool (an inert growing media with excellent water-holding capacity) with some grown in foam, coconut fibre and NFT (nutrient film technique). In all these systems the need to disinfect the soil is eliminated. The improved ability to manage plant growth and adjust nutrients results in producing better quality crops with reduced energy for a longer harvest period.
All greenhouse pepper growers use an Integrated Pest Management approach in controlling the pest populations. The use of numerous tools such as biological control agents, predators and parasites, greenhouse environment and some biologically-friendly pesticides such as insecticidal soaps are used to control pests in the greenhouse. It is a virtually pesticide-free way of keeping crops healthy. Bumble bees are used in some of the pepper greenhouses to improve fruit quality.
Peppers are an excellent source of Vitamin C and a good source of Vitamin A.
Peppers originated in Central and South America and have been a popular additive in foods in many cultures across the world. Early Ontario plantings of greenhouse peppers occurred in the mid to late 1980's in the Niagara area, and have become more popular over the past five years in the Leamington area. At present, there are approximately 90 acres devoted to pepper production in Ontario (about 60 acres in the Leamington area). Plans for expansion are underway as more growers find the economic benefit of producing peppers and the marketplace is further developed.
Buying and storing
Look for greenhouse peppers that are smooth, firm and plump with thick shiny skins free of cracks or soft spots.
Preparing and cooking
Rinse in cold water, core, seed and cut into strips.
They can be eaten raw, stir-fried, baked, grilled, or stewed.
Because greenhouse peppers are a premium product, savour the taste in simple dishes where you can enjoy the sweetness in every bite. Try them as pizza toppings, in an anti-pasto, or as an omelette filling. Make a pepper salad, using the various colours, and drizzle with olive oil and fresh herbs.