What Are Pimentos?

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A pimento is a type of red pepper. Pimentos are also known as "cherry peppers." They are typically 3 to 4 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. They come in both sweet and hot varieties. Pimentos are commonly used raw and sliced in salads. They are also used to stuff green olives, after which they are pickled. The name "pimento" comes from the Portuguese word for bell pepper. The flavor of a pimento is similar to that of a bell pepper, but its taste is more tangy and pungent.

What Are Pimentos?
What Are Pimentos?

History

The pimento is a variety of chili pepper (capsicum annuum). The pimento is native to South America, but is grown in many regions, including Spain, Hungary, Morocco and the Middle East. The pimento was first introduced to Spain after Columbus returned from the New World, but it has since become a staple of Spanish cuisine. It is featured in rice dishes like paella, as well as in tapas, salads and stews. In the United States, pimentos are sometimes used in salads, but their most popular use is in pimento cheese and as a stuffing for green olives.

Olives with pimentos
Olives with pimentos (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Uses

Fresh pimentos can be purchased during the summer and early fall. Pickled whole pimentos and pimento strips can be bought in any season. Fresh pimentos can add bite and crunch to salads and a sweet note to corn dishes and are excellent for jazzing up omelets. Jarred pimentos are used to make spreads, dips and sauces. Dried and ground pimento is known as the spice paprika. Paprika is common to many cuisines, especially Hungarian.

Paprika
Paprika

Cultivation

The pimento grows best in hot, dry climates. It takes about 70 to 80 days to mature. Pimento plants are very vigorous and highly productive. They grow best in acidic soil. Peppers are a member of the nightshade family.

Pepper plant
Pepper plant (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Benefits

Pimentos are rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Vitamin A is good for your eyesight as well as your skin and mucous membranes. Vitamin C is good for fighting off colds, boosting your immune system and healing wounds more quickly. Ounce for ounce, pimentos may contain as much as nine times as much Vitamin C as tomatoes. Pimentos also contain capsaicin, a substance common to all chili peppers that can help relieve arthritis and chronic pain.

Peppers
Peppers (Image: Paul Katz/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Substitutes

In general, red bell pepper can be used in place of pimentos, although some flavor will be lost. For best results, try roasting the bell peppers first; this will give them a more piquant taste.

Red bell peppers
Red bell peppers (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

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