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Kyo Midori Peppers
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Kyo-Midori peppers are smaller in comparison to other bell peppers, roughly one third the size of the American varieties, and have an elongated, block-like shape with deep ridges. The pods gradually taper toward the non-stem end and can be wrinkled, straight, to slightly creased. The skin is thin, glossy, smooth, and dark green, and the flesh is crunchy, aqueous, and green, encasing a hollow, central cavity filled with membranes and many small, flat, and circular cream-colored seeds. Kyo-Midori peppers are crisp and have a subtly sweet flavor with a vegetal, slightly bitter undertone.
Kyo-Midori peppers are available in the spring through fall when grown in open fields. The peppers are also available year-round in Japan through select companies who cultivated the variety in greenhouses.
Kyo-Midori peppers, botanically classified as Capsicum annuum, are a small, semi-bitter variety that belongs to the Solanaceae or nightshade family. The peppers are considered to be a type of piman in Japan, which is another name for green bell pepper. The descriptor piman comes from the French word “pimant,” meaning pepper, and was a name given when the green peppers were first introduced to Japan in the early Meiji Era or 19th century. Green bell peppers became extensively cultivated in Japan after World War II, and Kyo-Midori peppers are a modern cultivar harvested before they reach full maturity to maintain a subtly bitter flavor. Kyo-Midori peppers are widely grown in home gardens throughout Japan for their high productivity and are utilized in a variety of culinary applications.
Kyo-Midori peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that increases collagen production within the skin and protects the body against environmental aggressors by boosting the immune system. The peppers also contain potassium, vitamin A, fiber, and iron.
Kyo-Midori peppers are best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as grilling, stuffing, baking, sautéing, and frying. The young peppers can be chopped and used raw in green salads, minced into sauces, layered into sandwiches, or sliced and consumed as a stand-alone snack. Kyo-Midori peppers can also be chopped and stir-fried, charred over a grill, cooked and served as a dish in a bento box, or dipped in tempura and fried. In Japan, Kyo-Midori peppers are frequently halved, stuffed with meats, grains, and seasonings, and roasted, or they are cooked and covered in bonito flakes as a side dish. Kyo-Midori peppers pair well with bitter melon, cucumber, lettuce, broccoli, edamame, carrots, okra, tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, ginger, meats such as ground pork, beef, poultry, and fish, eggs, sake, red miso, sesame oil, mirin, and sesame seeds. The peppers will keep up to one week when stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
In Japan, Kyo-Midori peppers reach their peak season in the summer and are a favorite cooling ingredient in seasonal recipes. Japan is primarily hot and humid during the summer, causing cities to develop slow-moving energy known as natsube or “summer fatigue.” Japanese locals combat this fatigue with eating in-season fruits and vegetables that contain a high water content, which helps to cool the heat rising in the body. Cooking lighter dishes using seasonal ingredients is taught in Japan at a very young age and is considered to be one of the most important educational lessons. Children begin learning how to cook green peppers such as Kyo-Midori in nursery school. Green peppers are notoriously disliked by Japanese children for their bitter flavor, so schools incorporate the pepper into their summer cooking curriculum to encourage the children to try the pepper in different recipes.
Kyo-Midori peppers were developed by Takii Seed, which is a company based in Japan that has been selling seeds for over 180 years. While the exact date of release is unknown, Kyo-Midori peppers are considered to be a modern cultivar that was developed to exhibit improved resistance to disease, better growth characteristics, and flavor. Kyo-Midori peppers are primarily grown in home gardens and are also cultivated through small farms in Ibaraki, Kagoshima, Miyazaki, and Kochi prefectures in Japan.