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No such thing as male and female bell peppers

By Tracy Turner • Jul 17, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Q. I saw a link on Facebook saying that male bell peppers have three bumps on the bottom and are better for cooking, while female bell peppers have four bumps and are sweeter and better for eating raw. Is that true?

A. No.

Although the myth that bell peppers are either male or female continues to spread, bell peppers do not have genders.

According to the myth, “male” bell peppers have three lobes and are more bitter, while “female” bell peppers have four or more lobes, have more seeds, and are sweeter to eat.

However, bell peppers grow from flowers that have both male and female parts. The peppers, which are the fruits of a pepper plant, each contain ovaries that produce the seeds inside the peppers. Each pepper is produced through self-fertilization. The seeds are formed in each pepper after pollination, with those seeds then able to form new pepper plants.

Peppers are warm-season vegetables and are part of the Solanaceae or Nightshade family, along with tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes, according to Growing Peppers in the Home Garden, a recent Ohioline fact sheet.

Ohioline is Ohio State University Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at ohioline.osu.edu. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Peppers are easily grown, can be prolific producers, and can be grown in a variety of colors, shapes, and flavors. For instance, green bell peppers are green when they are in their immature stage. Bell peppers that ripen on the plant longer will develop a red, orange, yellow, or purple color.

Just like many other fruits and vegetables, the degree of sweetness is generally a factor of how ripe the fruit or vegetable is. Bell peppers start out green, then ripen to yellow, then orange, then red, and in some cases turn purple. Thus red, orange, yellow, and purple bell peppers are generally sweeter than green bell peppers. And the lobes on peppers are determined by growing conditions and genetics, so they don’t indicate the sweetness factor of the pepper in any way.

Bell peppers are an excellent, healthy dietary option. They are a great source of vitamins A and C, and beta-carotene. They also provide essential minerals including iron, copper, zinc, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and selenium. And they are a great-tasting, low-cost vegetable.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or [email protected]

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