WITH NAMES like King of the North, Worldbeater, California Wonder, PerfecW tion and Ruby King, the good old garden variety of pepper may sound more like a contender for the leader of the pack than a candidate for the cook's consideration. But no matter what the name, these Capsicum frutescens add their zest and pungency to a wide range of cuisines.

Though native to tropical America, peppers were cultivated extensively in Europe before they gained popularity in the United States. Today, they are available in American markets year-round and are common additions to the home garden.

But for those who can't tell a bell from a cayenne, confusion can sometimes reign in the pepper patch. Here, then, are a few pepper pointers. Basically, this vegetable is divided into two general types: sweet and mild-flavored or hot and pungent. Peppers vary in shape according to type, from the long and slender to the tiny and pod-like. And generally speaking, they are green when immature and red when mature. (For example, the ordinary green or bell pepper will eventually turn red if left on the plant long enough.) Some varieties, however, are yellow before they ripen to red. But just to keep pepper-pickers on their toes, one variety (Oshkosh) is yellow when it is mature. California Wonder, Worldbeater, King of the North and Ruby King are all sweet varieties. Perfection, a heart-shaped pepper, is commonly encountered as canned pimientos.

In the fire-eating department, the hot varieties, including the tiny tabascos, the small finger-shaped chilies and the larger cayennes, all have red flesh when mature. (Even a green or immature hot pepper will get the undivided attention of anyone who nibbles it.) Hungarian peppers or "banana peppers," as they are sometimes called, are a milder form of hot pepper. These are yellow when immature, as the name implies, and their pungency is concentrated mainly in the seeds and membranes.

When buying peppers, choose firm, thick-fleshed specimens with good fresh color. Shriveling and softness are signs of aging. The hot peppers you find in the market may be green or red, fresh or dried. Strings of dried peppers, besides being handy, are attractive to hang in the kitchen. As well, peppers can be purchased pickled, canned or frozen. They add crunch and color to salads and thrive when baked, french-fried, saute'ed, cooked with rice and pasta, combined in meat and vegetable dishes, paired with cheese and eggs -- and they are the soul of many sauces and soups. Surely Peter Piper knew what he was doing when he was picking all those pecks of peppers, for in addition to pickling, they fill a nearly inexhaustible list of culinary purposes. VEAL-STUFFED BELL PEPPERS (6 servings)

1 pound ground veal

2 tablespoons bacon drippings

1 medium onion, minced

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 strips bacon, fried and crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste

4 slices bread, soaked in water

6 medium bell peppers

Bread crumbs and butter for topping

Brown veal in bacon drippings. Add minced onion, celery, bacon, salt and pepper to taste. Cook 10 minutes. Add bread and simmer 30 minutes. When cooked, stuff into cleaned peppers. Sprinkle top with bread crumbs and a bit of butter. Place in pan with a small amount of water. Bake in 450 degrees oven just until peppers are tender, about 15 minutes. MEATLESS STUFFED PEPPERS (6 servings)

6 large green or red peppers

3 tablespoons butter

2 medium onions, sliced

1 cup chopped celery

1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced

4 cups cooked, drained beans, cannellini or pinto

1/2 pound cheddar cheese, grated

Basil, chili powder, salt and pepper to taste

2 cups tomato sauce

Core, seed and remove membranes from peppers. Melt butter in skillet and saute' onions and celery until onions are transparent. Add mushrooms and saute' about 5 minutes. In a bowl, mash beans; add cheese, onions, celery, mushrooms and spices; mix well. Stuff peppers with bean mixture. Place peppers in baking dish, cover with tomato sauce and bake at 350 degrees about 35 minutes, or until heated through. STOVE-TOP STUFFED PEPPERS (4 servings)

4 medium-sized green peppers

1 cup finely chopped celery

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

1/2 cup melted butter

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/2 cup water

1 cup crab meat

8-ounce can tomato sauce

Cut tops off peppers and remove seeds and membranes. Cook peppers in boiling, salted water to cover for 5 minutes, then drain. Saute' celery and onions in butter until golden. Stir in bread crumbs, water and crab meat and cook until heated through. Stuff peppers with crab meat mixture. Place tomato sauce in small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until heated through. Serve sauce with peppers. (Note: Peppers may be served at once after this top-of-stove preparation, or the tomato sauce may be added to the stuffed peppers, and then the peppers may be heated briefly in a 350-degree oven in greased cups or muffin tins to hold their shape. Do not bake more than 10 or 12 minutes, or the crab meat will become dried-out.) MAYAGUEZ ARROZ CON POLLO (6 servings)

2 large garlic cloves

2 parsley sprigs

1 tablespoon oregano

3 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon vinegar

4-pound chicken, cut in pieces

4 tablespoons cooking oil

1/4 pound diced, cooked ham

2 large onions, chopped

2 large green peppers, chopped

8 ounces whole canned tomatoes, chopped, and juice

10 to 12 pimiento-stuffed olives, halved

2 tablespoons imported capers

1/3 cup tomato juice

3 cups water

2 1/4 cups long-grain rice

Peas

Pimientos

In a mortar, grind garlic, parsley, oregano and salt. Add olive oil and vinegar and mix well. Rub chicken pieces with mixture. Marinate overnight in refrigerator in tightly closed container.

The next day, remove chicken from refrigerator. In deep pan (with cover, for later use) fry chicken in oil until dark golden brown. Remove chicken and fry ham for 2 minutes. Add onions and peppers and saute' until onions are transparent. Add tomatoes, olives, capers, tomato juice and water. Taste and add salt if needed. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add chicken and continue simmering for 15 minutes. Add rice and mix well. Bring to boil and continue boiling until most liquid has evaporated. Stir mixture in circular motion and in middle so that all rice underneath comes to top. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Stir again. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes, or until rice is cooked. Before serving, garnish with cooked peas and pimientos. LEMON/PEPPER PORK CHOPS (3 to 4 servings)

3 or 4 pork chops, 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick

1 large onion, sliced

1 lemon, sliced

1 bell pepper, sliced

2 cups tomato juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

Green pepper rings and parsley, for garnish

Sear chops on both sides, until brown, in skillet with no grease. When chops are browned on both sides, add sliced ingredients and tomato juice. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Check seasoning. May be garnished with fresh green pepper rings and parsley. HOBBIT PIE (8 servings)

2 small onions, chopped

8 scallions, chopped

2 green peppers, chopped

1 pound mushrooms, sliced

Vegetable oil for frying

2 cups cooked rice

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 cup croutons

Juice of 1 1/2 lemons

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon dill

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

3 tablespoons grated parmesan

Saute' onions, scallions, peppers and mushrooms in vegetable oil. Mix with rice, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, croutons and lemon juice. Spread mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Mix eggs, milk and seasonings and pour over vegetables. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Top with the remaining cheeses and broil until cheeses are bubbly. (Can be cooled and refrigerated before broiling. To reheat, cover dish and bake in a 350-degree oven until hot. When heated through, uncover and broil until cheeses are bubbly. This is a good meatless main dish.) ITALIAN STYLE PEPPERS (4 servings)

3 or 4 tablespoons salad oil

2 large green peppers, chopped

1 large tomato, peeled and cut into 8 wedges

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup grated romano cheese

2 1-inch-thick slices Italian or French bread, cut in 1-inch cubes

3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons oregano

Heat oil in a large skillet and add green pepper, tomato, garlic, cheese and bread cubes. Cover and cook over medium heat 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add seasonings, tossing lightly to mix. Cook uncovered, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot. SWEET PEPPER CONSOMME (6 servings)

3 medium-sized sweet peppers

2 tomatoes

1 large onion, peeled

2 quarts boiling water

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 whole clove

Quarter peppers, remove seed and membranes. Quarter the tomatoes and the onion. Put all ingredients in a kettle and bring to boil. Simmer, covered, 1 1/2 hours. Strain through a fine sieve and taste for seasoning. A delicate and delicious broth. Serve hot ot cold. JALAPENO CASSEROLE (6 servings)

7-ounce can green chilies (jalapenos), drained, seeds removed

3 cups grated monterey jack and/or cheddar cheese

2 medium tomatoes, sliced, peeled and juiced

4 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup flour

1 1/2 cups evaporated milk

Avocado and sour cream for garnish

Line the bottom of a greased 7-by-11-inch casserole with the chilies. Pile grated cheese on top. Arrange tomatoes evenly over cheese. Beat eggs until light, gradually adding salt, flour and evaporated milk. Pour egg mixture over other ingredients. Bake about 1 hour at 350 degrees. Serve in squares garnished with avocado and sour cream. This is a nice brunch dish. CHILI SAUCE (Makes 1 quart)

2 1-pound cans tomatoes

2 green peppers, chopped

1 medium-sized hot red pepper, seeded and chopped

3 onions, chopped

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup sugar

1 cup vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

Place undrained tomatoes in large pan. Mash with fork and add other ingredients. Cover and simmer over low heat until thick, about 2 hours. Stir occasionally. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal; or store in covered container in refrigerator. Will keep several weeks. This is peppy! RED PEPPER RELISH (Makes about 3 cups)

12 large red sweet peppers, seeds removed

1 tablespoon salt

3 cups sugar (scant)

1 pint vinegar

Put peppers through medium-fine grinder, remove to large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Allow to stand overnight. Next day, drain as dry as possible in a towel. Place in a large pot and add sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil and cook until somewhat thickened, about 1 hour. Stir from time to time. Spoon into sterile jars. Cool. Refrigerate covered. Good with any meat, especially beef and lamb. PEPPER PECANS (Makes 1 pound)

Saute' one pound of pecan halves in about 4 tablespoons butter. Add two teaspoons worcestershire sauce, a few bold dashes of hot pepper sauce and a sprinkling of white pepper. Spread evenly in pan or on cookie sheet and roast 20 minutes in slow (300-degree) oven. Serve hot. Guaranteed to create thirst. GREEN PEPPER SALAD (6 servings)

4 bell peppers

4 tomatoes

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Roast whole peppers in 425-degree oven until skin is scorched and puffy. This will take 10 to 20 minutes, depending on whether peppers are at room temperature. The blackened skins should peel off easily. Skin, seed and chop the peppers and the tomatoes. Mix with rest of ingredients. Chill. Serve cool. This salad will keep several days in the regrigerator.