Why Are Bell Peppers Different Colors?

Bell peppers are different colors because of the variety of bell pepper plant they come from. Different varieties have different genes that release different chemicals as they ripen. While a bell pepper is green chlorophyll dominates the pigment. Lutein and beta-carotene are responsible for yellow and orange pigments and anthocyanins for red and purple hues.

There is a big misconception about the different colors of bell peppers. The misconception is that different color bell peppers in the store are all from the same plant at varying times of ripeness. The thought is that bell peppers are picked from the plant as they turn green, then yellow, orange, and red. Another thought is that bell peppers change colors as they sit and that the grocers are moving peppers from the green pile, to the yellow pile, to the orange pile, and finally to the red pile.

While it’s mildly entertaining to picture a grocer picking out peppers from one bin and putting them in the next bin over and over again that’s not how it works. The first thought of picking the bell peppers all from the same plant at different time of ripeness is also false.

The different color bell peppers are different varieties. They are not one variety of bell pepper picked at different ripeness. The exception is the green bell pepper that is what almost all bell peppers look like when they first emerge on the plant.

It’s true that a bell pepper can transition from green to orange to red but most red varieties will turn from green to red. If you have a variety that turns different colors as it matures you still wouldn’t get the perfectly yellow or orange colored bell peppers found in the store that come from yellow or orange maturing varieties. As a bell pepper ripens and turns from one color to the other it is sort of two toned and a mixed hue at the same time.

Will Bell Peppers Ripen Off the Vine?

The answer is not really. Bell peppers will continue to ripen when off the vine but will not get to the same vibrant red color, sweet taste, or nutrition packed levels as if left on the vine to ripen. Sometimes an immaturely picked green bell pepper will not turn color at all once off the vine. The one’s that are a darker green or show some color spot changes are further along and have a better chance of turning color off the vine.

To speed up the ripening process keep the peppers in a warm area above 70 degrees. Placing the veggies in sunlight will help them ripen. Also placing them in close proximity to other ripe vegetables and fruits like a banana, apple, or other ripe bell peppers that release ethylene gas will help them ripen faster.

Be careful to check on your bell peppers so they don’t get overripe and start to rot. Keeping the peppers in a dark and cool area below 55 degrees will slow the ripening process. Bell peppers should keep in the refrigerator for two weeks.

Do Green Bell Peppers Turn Red?

Some green bell peppers turn red, others turn yellow, orange, purple, or brown. Green bell peppers are typically un-ripened bell peppers of colorful varieties mainly red, yellow, and orange varieties. As bell peppers ripen they turn color and become sweeter as well as develop a higher nutrient content. While a green bell pepper is still very nutritious a red bell pepper can have 2-3x the amount of vitamin C, 10x the vitamin A, and 11x the beta-carotene.

There are varieties of bell peppers that stay green even through maturity but those varieties are rarely grown. Green bell peppers in stores are the immature versions of varieties of bell peppers that would have turned red, yellow, or orange if left on the vine to ripen.

Why Are Green Bell Peppers Cheaper?

Green bell peppers are typically cheaper than other colored bell peppers because they are picked immaturely. Since they are picked early they require less inputs like fertilizer, water, and care. Being picked early also means the growers are freeing up space for something else to grow. Also there is less risk of disease and blemishes that peppers have when they stay on the vine. All of these factors lead to green bell peppers being less expensive than their colorful counterparts.

When Do Bell Peppers Change Color?

Not all bell peppers will turn color but most varieties will. This will happen if left on the vine to full ripeness. After the green bell peppers reach their full size, about 3×4 inches, they will turn color in 2-3 weeks.

Which Bell Pepper Tastes the Best?

Green bell peppers are picked before full ripeness while they are still immature. They have a more bitter and “green” taste than other bell peppers. Yellow, orange, and red bell peppers found in stores have been allowed to fully ripen and have developed their best taste and nutritional content. Yellow, orange, and red bell peppers are all somewhat sweet and have a fruity taste.

Best Color Bell Pepper to Eat Raw

The best color bell pepper to eat raw is the red bell pepper. The red bell pepper has reached full maturity, will taste sweet and fruity, and has the highest nutrient content of all the peppers.

Any of the colored varieties that has been allowed to reach full maturity is a very close second to the red bell pepper. Bell peppers that have fully ripened on the vine have the best taste and all have a higher nutrient content than the immature green bell peppers.

Multi Color Bell Peppers

Multi color bell peppers are bell peppers that have been harvested while in the middle stage of ripening. Most bell peppers start off green but some will start off a pale yellow, white, or light purple. Also most bell pepper varieties will transition directly from green to their full maturity color but others will transition through different colors like green, yellow, orange, and red or light purple, to brown , to red.

There is only one variety that I’ve found that matures to a multi color bell pepper and it’s called Enjoya. I have never seen this variety in stores or from seed distributors.

Rainbow Bell Pepper Blend

Rainbow is a blend of 7 different colored varieties of bell pepper in one seed packet. This is offered from many seed distributors and makes for a fun and interesting bell pepper gardening experience.

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