Bell Pepper Colors
All bell peppers begin life as green bells. In fact, all peppers start out green and then ripen to various shades of the rainbow. Some bell peppers start out green then ripen to yellow, orange, or purple. Others start out green then go through shades of purple, orange, or yellow before finally ripening to a fully red stage.
Pay attention to your pepper variety so you know what to expect as it ripens. Here are a few of the most popular red bell pepper varieties available:
- Ace: Hybrid, medium sized fruits, blossom drop tolerant, 70 days to ripen red
- Yankee Bell: Open pollinated, medium sized fruit, 80 days to ripen red
- California Wonder: Heirloom, largest fruit of open-pollinated varieties, 75 days to ripen red
Ripening on or off the plant
Green bell peppers available in stores are the same pepper as the yellow, orange, or red varieties. They’ve just been picked a lot earlier. This is why colorful peppers are more expensive because they require a longer time on the plant. Peppers can be eaten at any time during their lifecycle, but when fully mature they tend to be the sweetest and more flavorful.
Most pepper seed packets will have a ‘days to maturity’ section which will tell you how many days to a green pepper and how many days to a fully colored pepper. If you pick a bell pepper when fully green, it likely won’t ripen to its full color on the counter. If you wait until the pepper shows signs of changing to its mature stage and then pick it, it will ripen to a full color off the plant.
Picking a pepper that is changing but not fully ripened does have the advantage of encouraging the plant to produce more peppers. However, if you wait until the pepper has ripened to red on the plant, you are getting the most flavorful and most nutritious fruit. Vitamin C content can triple in a fully ripe red pepper as opposed to a green pepper.
How to Pick
Use garden clippers to sever the stem of the pepper about 1-2 inches from the crown of the fruit. Do not pull the pepper off, this can damage the plant. Avoid damaging the plant because it will continue to produce fruit until the season ends.