Mounds of bell peppers seem to be everywhere this time of year. Their amazing colors—green, yellow, red and even purple—just scream summer to me. And the best part? They taste as delicious as they look—unless you pick an underripe or overripe pepper, that is. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to determine if a bell pepper is ripe or not. Here’s how:

How to choose ripe bell peppers

  • Look closely: Choose a bell pepper that has a deep, vivid color. For example, select a dark green bell pepper over lighter green, which is more than likely not ripe. You will know your pepper is ripe if it has a glossy sheen. Be sure there are no blemishes, bruises or soft spots—these indicate damage or overripeness.
  • Feel it: Give the pepper a gentle squeeze. The skin should feel firm and taut, but yield just slightly under pressure. Just don’t go all Hulk on the poor pepper—you don’t want to crack it!
  • Check for heft: Hold the pepper in the palm of your hand. It should feel heavier than it looks. This means it’s nice and ripe with thick, well-hydrated walls on the inside.

Tips

  • Store bell peppers in your refrigerator as soon as you get home from the market. They will last for up to 10 days. Bell peppers need to stay well hydrated. To keep them from drying out, place a damp cloth next to them in the vegetable compartment.
  • Accidentally bring home some underripe bell peppers? No problem! Just store them at 65 to 70 degrees, and they will ripen up in about two weeks.

How to prepare:

  • For a savory meal, stuff your green peppers with ground beef and rice. You can also top your steak with green peppers or add them to your favorite pasta or potato salad.
  • Don’t think you can use bell peppers in dessert? Think again! Roast your bell peppers to make a sweet pepper upside-down cake. Or puree them to create bell pepper cheesecake or red pepper velvet cake!