Capsicum

Capsicum

History

The Capsicum species originated in South and Central America, and Christopher Columbus brought it back to Europe when he returned from the Americas. Records show that capsicum has been used in cooking since 6000 BC. In Australia, capsicum became popular thanks to European and Asian immigrants who use it extensively.

What are they

They belong to the Solanaceae family along with tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant. They are often referred to as ‘peppers’ and come in a variety of colours, flavours and sizes. They are commonly used in stir fries and salads and can be stuffed or grilled and marinated in garlic and olive oil.

How are they grown

Capsicums thrive in warm conditions and are particularly sensitive to cold and do not grow below 10ºC. They grow best in deep well drained, medium textured soils, but will not tolerate saline water.

Where are they grown

Capsicums are grown in most vegetable regions in Australia that have a temperature range of approximately 15ºC to 32ºC.

Variety

Varieties have a primary mature colour that is usually green, but may be yellow or purple. They also have a secondary mature colour that is usually red, but may be orange or yellow or other colours.

How to know when they are ripe

Capsicums can be picked green at the mature primary stage. This is when they are firm, have thick walls and are dark green. If picked too early, they have thinner walls and are inclined to wilt.

Capsicums usually begin flowering 1-2 months after planting and will take up to around 110 days from planting to first harvest which then continue until cold weather reduces yield or frost stops growth.

Seasonality

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

June

Jul

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Capsicum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weather impacts

Capsicums can be damaged by frost. Plants affected by cool weather tend to harden and seldom regain the vigorous growth necessary for high yields. During cold weather, the fruit remains small, hard and malformed because of uneven pollination. The fruit may also have numerous growth cracks.

Fruit may be sun-scorched during hot weather and will show poor setting and poor colouring when temperatures are above 33°C.

Rain and high humidity can increase diseases.

Local market

Fresh consumption with a small amount being  processed.

Storage

Capsicums should not be stored for long periods, or with fruit such as tomatoes that produce ethylene as the gas reduces storage life. Storage conditions should be 7-13 ͦ C at 90-95% relative humidity for a maximum of two to three weeks.

Nutrition

Capsicums are an excellent source of vitamin A and C (red contain more than green capsicums). They are also a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin E, B6 and folate. The sweetness of capsicums is due to their natural sugars (green capsicums have less sugar than red capsicums).

Packaging

Capsicums are usually packed on their sides in 6 kg and 12 kg cartons or plastic returnable containers. If being sent directly to a supermarket the standard black supermarket crate is used.

Machines are available that will wash, brush and grade capsicums for size. The fruit also need to be visually graded for colour, so the package contains fruit only of one colour.

Other uses- dried pickled etc

Capsicum can be used to produce the spice paprika. Red capsicums are dried with forced-air heaters and ground to a fine powder.

Medical or natural medicine use

Capsicums are used as a herbal medicine to treat poor circulation, fever and colds, and digestive disorders. Oleo-resins can also be distilled from paprika for the use in pharmaceutical products.

 

References

Northern Territory Primary Industries ‘Capsicum and Chilli Fact Sheet’ http://www.nt.gov.au/d/Primary_Industry/Content/File/horticulture/vegetables/VF4_capsicum_chilli.pdf (January 2016)   
Western Australia Department of Agriculture https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/capsicums-and-chillies/growing-capsicums-and-chillies (January 2016)