Growing Bell Peppers: Your Backyard Superfood

Growing Bell Peppers: Your Backyard Superfood

Growing bell peppers is an endeavor everyone who is physically able should try. Why? It is, in short, a backyard superfood.

In the discussion of superfoods, we often overlook common garden vegetables in favor of exotic fruits. While such fruits are arguably super in terms of quantity of antioxidants and other nutrients, they are not the be-all-and-end-all for our nutritional needs.

Nutrition in bell peppers

One cup of red bell pepper slices provides the following nutrients:

  • 291% of the US RDA of vitamin C
  • 104% of the US RDA of vitamin A (beta carotene)
  • around 10% of US RDA vitamin B6
  • Smaller amounts of several other vitamins and minerals

Really, the reason I consider bell pepper to be a superfood is its vitamin A and C content. Think about it: can you grow oranges in your backyard? Unless you live in southern California or Florida, the answer is probably no. And have you ever tried to grow carrots? While bell peppers may take as long a time to grow and turn red as it does for a carrot to grow to maturity (but I doubt that), carrots are difficult to get started, take forEVER to mature, and sometimes fail to grow as big as the seed packet says.

My point being that you can have your own source of vitamins A and C simply by growing a few bell pepper plants.

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How to grow bell peppers

Growing Bell Peppers: Your Backyard Superfood

Starting bell peppers from seed is tricky. They require very warm soil – generally, seed-starting gardeners need to put their trays with pepper seeds on top of a seedling heating mat – and can take up to three weeks to germinate. While I start my peppers from seed, I recommend beginning gardeners to buy starts from their local nursery.

They do well either in pots or in the ground. Unless you live somewhere where it never freezes, I recommend always having a few peppers in pots. They are tropical perennials, meaning that if you bring them inside during the winter then put them back out the next spring they will produce all over again – probably even more than the previous year.

If you plant them in the ground, they are generally not that particular about soil type. Make sure the soil is fertile, though, by amending it and mulching it with homegrown compost. Alternatively, buy or make compost tea and spray this on the leaves every couple of weeks (which is a must if they are in pots).

Other than giving them moderate organic fertilization, growing bell peppers is low-maintenance. Of course, keep them watered. In the ground, water once or twice a week during the summer, depending on heat and rainfall. In pots, don’t let the soil get dry more than two inches deep.

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Seedlings may attract aphids for a few weeks, but other than that peppers are virtually pest-free. They are one of the best plants for a novice gardener to try, as they produce abundantly with little effort.

If you want to save a little money on the food budget, and/or don’t care too much for either citrus fruits or carrots, grow your own peppers!