Using different-colored peppers gives your presentation extra appeal. (IStock photo / September 8, 2011)

Peppers are, arguably, among the easiest home garden crops to grow. Problem is, they take forever to do so. They usually don't come into their own until after the tomatoes are gone and the herbs are exhausted from the heat. So, herby, tomato-ey, peppery sauces become somewhat problematic.

We can still do a lot with peppers, though, whether they're "plain old" bell peppers or more exotic varieties.

Sticking good stuff inside them is a great approach. This way, we can create main courses — many of them pretty much one-dish meals — that will take us through these early back-to-school evenings when we're still using local produce but looking for something a bit more substantial for supper than raw veggies and cold meat.

Ergo, our exericise du jour is to make the most of our beloved capsicums (that's Latin for peppers).


Submit a Letter to the Editor for the Laurel Leader, Columbia Flier and Howard County Times

First of all, it's good to keep in mind while you're getting all creative over the family-appeal factor that peppers (both bell and spicier varieties) are more than just a pretty veggie. They're low in calories, ranging from 4 calories for a tablespoon of raw chili peppers to 14 for a half-cup chopped raw bell peppers.

Better yet, peppers are a really good source of vitamin C, folate and vitamin B-6. Red bell peppers, which are generally held to be the ripe version of green bell peppers, also contain a goodly amount of vitamin A.

The basic bell

The classic, American-style stuffed pepper uses green bells, ground beef and cooked rice. We vary it somewhat here, but the basic method you use will serve you well for other recipe suggestions.

When selecting your peppers, try to get relatively tall, thick ones with enough girth to hold a goodly amount of stuffing, and enough "meat" on the bottoms to allow you to take a small slice off so they'll stand upright without leaking the filling out as they bake.

If you are working with less-than-perfect shapes, you could cut the peppers in half lengthwise (after pre-cooking), lay them down and stuff each half. Naturally, they'll take less time to bake.

A side salad and some whole-grain artisanal bread are all that are needed with this main dish. Or skip the salad and bread and do a simple dessert.

6 large bell peppers (a colorful variety — green, red, yellow, orange — is fun)

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 1/4 pounds ground turkey

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 2/3 cups favorite spaghetti sauce (or use canned tomato sauce with herbs), divided

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese