(Capsicum annuum) There are many
different shapes, sizes and degrees of heat in capsicums and chilies,
which are natives of central America. When the term capsicum is applied,
it is generally to denote the large, mild varieties known as sweet
peppers, bell peppers or banana peppers. The use of sweet and mild
peppers is quite legitimate in Asian cuisines.
When purchasing, buy firm, smooth-skinned
specimens, and make sure the stalk is fresh and green. They will keep
reasonably well in a polythene bag in the refrigerator for a few days
but, like all garden produce, are best when freshest. Choose those of
even size and regular shape for easy handling. Straight ones are much
easier to fill than those with a built-in curve or twist.
To prepare for stuffing, carefully remove
seeds and central membranes, leaving cavity free for filling. Depending
on the shape and size of the capsicum, it may be necessary to make one
or two slits in order to fill it. With the tip of a small knife, make
one slit lengthways from just under the stalk almost to the tip, and a
short slit half way around the top, to facilitate filling. Of course,
the easy way is to slice off the top, remove the seeds and membrane,
fill the capsicum and simply replace the top complete with stem.