Upon returning from a long vacation, I was pleased to find the Market on the Square well into pepper season. Browsing the aisles I noted the stunning number of varieties you can find in our little market.
Peppers are native to America and come in a wide range of colors and flavors from mild and sweet to wickedly hot and spicy. In general, peppers are divided into three categories, and our market well represents.
Bell Peppers: Bell peppers are sweet and crunchy with a firm, juicy flesh. Many of our local farmers grow bell peppers including green, purple, orange, white, yellow and the incredibly popular red. Red bells are ripened green peppers, hence the higher price tag. Yet, bell peppers are a good deal right now and only get less expensive and more prolific as the summer goes on. Bell peppers are great for sautés, salads, stews, relishes and fire-roasting.
Frying Peppers: Elongated and skinnier than bell peppers, frying peppers have thinner skins are great for just what their name suggests. Also known as Italian frying peppers, Italianelles or Cubanelles, frying peppers can be sautéed or stuffed, added to soups and sauces or sliced and marinated for your favorite sandwiches. Typically light green or red, Brackett farm, Tiny Greens, Blue Moon and others sell frying peppers at our market with names like Jimmy Nardello, Gypsy, Carmen, Hungarian Wax and Super Sweet Banana.
Chili Peppers: Chili peppers come in a wide range of flavors, colors and heat. From the relatively mild Anaheim to the fiery Habanero, chili peppers are rated in Scoville units yet vary in heat from season to season. Chili peppers can be eaten on their own, pickled, used to add spice to your favorite dishes or left to dry and ground into powder. Tomahnous Farm from Mahomet is the place to shop for chili peppers. Lisa “loves hot peppers” and grows the widest variety at the Market including a ton of heirloom varieties: Beaver Dam, Bulgarian Carrot, Lemon Drop, Fish, Cayenne, Chili Pepin, Cherry Bomb, Serrano, Thai, Anaheim, Jalapeño and Czechoslovakian Black.
The world of peppers is at times overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to ask our farmers to describe their peppers or evaluate their spiciness. So when looking to add a degree of brilliance or zest to your favorite recipes, reach for one or more of the vibrant peppers found at the Market on the Square where they are prolifically perfect.
The Market on the Square runs every Saturday from 7a.m. -noon, rain or shine now through November 8th. It is located in the parking lot of Urbana Square Mall on the corners of Vine and Illinois Streets.