P is for Pepper

Cultivate Michigan, a campaign of the Michigan Farm to Institution Network (the Network), has designated the colorful pepper as Michigan's Summer Featured Food. The Ecology Center is one of the primary coordinators of the Network. Cultivate Michigan, designed to connect local farmers with local food-purchasing institutions, chose peppers because nearly 1,500 farms produce peppers, covering 2,200 acres across Michigan. Fresh peppers are available every year July through October. Peppers are an excellent source for vitamins A and C.

Interesting Fact: Farms often harvest peppers mechanically and the machine commonly used is made in Saginaw, Michigan!

The most commonly grown pepper in Michigan is the bell pepper, followed by the banana pepper. However, many varieties are grown throughout the state, with tastes varying from sweet to very spicy. Remember to taste-test pepper varieties as spiciness is relative!

Marinated Black Bean & Pepper Salad with Homemade Salsa Verde

Adapted from Cultivate Michigan

1 can (16 oz) of black beans, drained
1 package of frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
2-3 fresh Michigan green bell peppers,minced
2-3 fresh Michigan red bell peppers,minced
1 fresh onion, minced
1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 pinch of dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 cup of salsa verde
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/4 cup of reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (optional)

Directions
Combine black beans, corn, green peppers, red peppers and onions in a large bowl. For dressing, combine the lemon juice, parsley, cumin, granulated garlic and oil. Pour dressing over salad and toss lightly to combine. Sprinkle Monterey Jack cheese (optional) on top before serving.

For Homemade Salsa Verde:
5 mediums tomatillos, husked
1 Michigan jalapeno pepper, about 3-inches long by 1-inch thick
A pinch of salt

Boil water in a pot to cover tomatillos and jalapeno. Add tomatillos and the jalapeno and boil until the tomatillos are emerald green in color, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the tomatillos and pepper, and place both in a blender or food processor with a pinch of salt. Blend to desired chunkiness, adding water (about 1 to 3 ounces) as desired. Taste for saltiness, adding more if desired. Remove mixture from blender/processor and serve.