Harvest of the Month Munch: Lunchbox Peppers & National Farm to School Month

lunchbox-peppersHappy National Farm to School Month!!!  Not only is October a most bountiful time of year for our local farms and farmers but it is also National Farm to School Month!  In celebration, students from 22 local elementary schools tasted sweet and flavorful ‘Lunchbox’ peppers as part of Sierra Harvest’s Farm to School program.  Farm to School provides monthly “Harvest of the Month” tastings of local, seasonal, featured produce to nearly 6,700 students in Nevada County.  But we didn’t stop there!  Both Nevada Joint Union High School District (NJUHSD) and Grass Valley School District (GVSD) featured ‘Lunchbox’ Peppers in their school lunch menus including: salad bar additions, veggies & dip, and pasta with peppers, tomatoes, and basil.  These menu items were featured as part of California Thursdays, a campaign focused on bringing more fresh, California-grown produce into our local school meals.

These tasty and sweet mini-sized pepper treats made their way from JSM Organics.  Nestled within the ocean-facing hills and moderate climate of Monterey County, JSM Organics was established in 2010.   They pledge to produce accessible and affordable organic food, to operate with integrity, provide education about their CCOF certified organic products, to respect people and the planet, and to value teamwork.  Javier Zamora, the founder of JSM Organics grew up farming in Mexico. He went to college at age 41, and then started his own farm here in California. You can find Javier’s strawberries, avocados, jicama and peppers at the BriarPatch Co-op where he delivers fresh produce each week.

So, what do we know about the pepper?  They can be sweet, spicy, large or small and are grown all over the world in temperate areas.  Nutritionally, it’s a powerhouse.

Here are some perfect pepper points to ponder:

  • There are nearly 2,000 varieties of peppers grown in the world and they are grouped into two categories: hot (or chili) peppers and sweet peppers.
  • The most popular type of pepper in the United States is the green bell pepper.
  • Since peppers have seeds and come from flowering plants, they are actually a fruit. However, members of the culinary world consider peppers to be a vegetable.
  • One fresh medium-sized hot, green chile pepper has as much Vitamin C as six oranges.
  • As peppers mature (become more red), their taste becomes sweeter and milder.
  • The amount of heat in a hot pepper depends on the type of pepper it is and the soil and climate it’s grown in. Larger peppers are usually milder than smaller peppers.
  • In 1912 Wilbur Scoville created the Scoville Scale to determine the ‘hotness’ of a pepper. Peppers range from the happy Bell Pepper at 0 ‘hotness’ to such peppers as the Komodo Dragon, The Viper, The Scorpion Butcher, and the Carolina Reaper!!
  • According to the Guinness Book of World Records the ‘Carolina Reaper’ Pepper is currently the hottest pepper in the world and rates at an average of 1,569,300 Scoville Heat Units!!
  • Peppers were given their name by Christopher Columbus and Spanish explorers who were searching for peppercorn plants to make black pepper. Columbus took samples of a wide variety of peppers back to Europe and they promptly became quite popular.
  • Spicy peppers burn calories by triggering a thermodynamic burn in the body, which speeds up the metabolism.
  • Capsaicinoids (the chemical that makes chile peppers hot) is used in muscle rubs and patches for sore and aching muscles.

Peppers are delicious sautéed, roasted on a sandwich, as an addition to salads and, of course, as a healthy snack.  Here’s a perfect pepper recipe just in time for the cooler days of fall.

Stuffed Pepper Soup:  Skinnytaste.com
Servings: 6 • Size: about 1 1/2 cups soup, 1/2 cup rice • Points + : 7 pts • Smart Points: 7
Calories: 261 • Fat: 5 g • Carb: 37.5 g • Fiber: 5 g • Protein: 17.6 g • Sugar: 6 g
Sodium: 606 g  (without salt)

Bell peppers, chopped tomatoes and lean ground beef are simmered in broth with onions and garlic, then topped with brown rice – everything you love about stuffed peppers, in a soup!


  • 3 cups cooked brown rice (omit for paleo diet)
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz each) cans petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 3/4 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste


In a large pot or dutch oven, brown ground meat on high heat and season with salt. Drain fat if any, reduce heat to medium-low, then add peppers, onions and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes on low heat.

Add: tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, marjoram and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Serve about 1 1/2 cups of soup in each bowl and top with 1/2 cup cooked brown rice.  Makes about 9 1/2 cups.