Bell peppers come in a variety of colors – green, yellow, orange, and red. Many believe these colors of bell peppers are different types of peppers, like banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, and habanero peppers. They do, after all, have quite different flavors. But did you know that these different colors of bell peppers are actually the same species of pepper, just at different stages of ripeness?
Bell peppers are somewhat unique because they stop ripening when they are picked from the vine. Whereas other culinary vegetables like tomatoes can ripen on the shelf after they are picked, once a bell pepper is plucked, it stops ripening. Bell peppers that are picked before ripening will keep their green color. Green bell peppers are loved for their mild, somewhat bitter taste that mixes well in tossed salads and other fresh dishes.
If a bell pepper is allowed to stay on the vine, it will turn from yellow to orange to red as it ripens. As with other fruits, the riper the fruit, the sweeter and more flavorful. Because red peppers are so much sweeter than green peppers, they are often stewed or roasted in hot dishes like sauces, soups, and pasta.
The reason green peppers are often so much cheaper than yellow, orange, and red peppers is the amount of time required for harvest. Green peppers can be picked and shipped much more quickly than their riper counterparts. And because ripe fruits spoil more quickly, green peppers have a longer shelf life than their more colorful alternatives.
This factoid caused a buzz on Twitter in late 2018, which led to several publications attempting to create their own buzz by “debunking the myth.” It is true that some peppers out there have been bred to retain their green color even after ripening. And if you happen to find purple bell peppers, yes, they are in fact a different variety of pepper. But the fact remains that bell peppers do naturally turn from green to yellow to orange to red when ripening on the plant.
Do green and red bell peppers differ in levels of nutrients? Yes, they do. Red bell peppers have 11x more beta-carotene, 2x more Vitamin C, and 10x more Vitamin A than green bell peppers. But even though red peppers pack more nutrients, green bell peppers are still an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. All varieties of bell peppers also contain Vitamin E, potassium, folic acid, and B-complex vitamins. These colorful fruits are also valuable sources of antioxidants and carotenoids, important for eye health.
And for a final fun fact – the spice paprika is simply made of dried, ground bell peppers!