Bell peppers come in almost every color of the rainbow and brown. Bell pepper colors, including red, are part of the vine ripening process to turn different shades on the vine. Many first-time growers are surprised to learn that four of their favorite peppers are the same plant. Just as coriander and cilantro are the same, so too are green, yellow, orange, and red bell peppers. The difference is that coriander is a seed, while cilantro is a leaf. Not so in the case of red bell peppers. The colors are simply a natural progression from less to riper. Green bell peppers are the most firm, while reds are the sweetest stage. All you need to do to get your red bell peppers to turn red is not pick them too early. After years of growing peppers at home, I am happy to share what I’ve learned about these incredible, tasty veggies.
Do red bell peppers turn red on the vine? Red bell peppers do turn red on the vine. Although some bell pepper varieties never turn this color at all, red bell pepper will go through green, yellow, orange, and red phases as it ripens. Bell peppers are picky growers. It’s vital to make sure they have the correct soil, water, nutrients, and sunlight.
Can You Eat A Green Pepper That Turns Red
Since red bell peppers turn red on the vine, there’s no problem eating them this way. What may surprise you is that many peppers are picked and eaten green, but they actually turn darker when ripe. Luckily, green bell pepper is just as edible and more common.
The sweetness may seem unexpected, but bell peppers’ relatives are mostly sweet. Since they grow from a flower and have internal seeds, peppers are actually a fruit. Botanically speaking, they are actually just large berries. Most berries aren’t tasty when they’re green, and like the bell pepper, they sweeten on the plant with time.
If you see a multicolored bell pepper, there’s no reason to fear that either. As bell peppers grow, they may not have perfectly even pigment. Maturing takes time, and just as it does with humans, some bits may reach their full potential sooner. Bicolored bell pepper is just at the ‘awkward teen’ stage before it becomes a fully red pepper.
It’s worth noting that the less-ripe green bell peppers are more likely to cause gas and intestinal upset. In addition to sweetening up, as they mature, people with stomach issues like IBS may find the riper red bell peppers easier to digest. The best part of growing your own red bell peppers is the ability to choose the perfect ripeness for your favorite meals.
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Red Bell Pepper Problems
Eating an ‘unripe’ or ‘overripe’ bell pepper isn’t a big deal. Typically, red bell peppers are surprisingly sweet and delicious. However, if you happen to grow other peppers, like ghost peppers or jalapenos nearby, they can get spicy.
Cross-pollination can give you some unexpectedly hot results. Normally a red bell pepper is a zero on the Scoville heat index. They contain zero capsicum, which is what makes other peppers ‘hot.’
However, pepper species can make both bell peppers and even tomatoes hot as pollen from bees create a hybrid fruit. While this won’t affect most other plants the same, because bell peppers, spicy peppers, and tomatoes are all members of the berry family, they can affect one another’s flavor when cross-pollinated.
The only other time your red bell peppers will not be sweet is if they aren’t actual bell peppers at all. Baby bells look a lot like several other hotter peppers, such as chili peppers. As these move from green to red, they tend to gain more spice and develop more capsicum. Always make sure you’re planting the right type of seeds, particularly if you’re a first-time gardener.
How Long Does It Take For Bell Peppers To Turn Red
Growing bell peppers that turn red on the vine can be deeply satisfying. However, it is also a waiting game. How long does it take for bell peppers to turn red? Well, there will be some variation depending on the plants and where they’re grown.
When you first plant a bell pepper seed, the directions may tell you that you only need to wait about six weeks to eat them. That is true, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be red bell peppers at that stage. Six-week-old red bell pepper is most likely still green.
Instead of picking them at this point, you can opt to wait for the sweeter and more colorful variations. It will usually take an additional two weeks to reach full maturity. However, you can get green, yellow, and orange bell peppers from the plant earlier if you like.
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Growing Red Bell Peppers From Seed
If you plan to start your bell pepper plants from seeds, it’s important to know your last estimated frost date. You can start seeds indoors as early as two months before your last frost date. I recommend more like one month in case of late freezing—Bell peppers like heat.
Germinating red bell pepper seeds isn’t difficult. It should take seven to twenty-one days, but most will sprout around day fourteen. They will need soil between seventy and eighty degrees, so don’t start sprouting too early indoors. A month or two before the last frost of the season is fine.
The peppers themselves will take a bit longer. From the first day you plant until full maturity, you’re looking at sixty to ninety days. The length will depend on the species of bell pepper. Don’t be fooled by directions that say the bells are ready to eat in six weeks. That timeframe is for green bell peppers. Sweeter red bells take about fourteen days longer to ripen.
Will Red Peppers Turn Red If Picked Green
You already know red bell peppers do turn red on the vine, but will they ripen if you pick them when they’re green? Sadly the answer here is no. To ripen properly, bell peppers need to stay attached to the plant.
Some foods, like avocados, ripen exceptionally well after picking. Regrettably, the bell pepper is not one of those. Leave them alone and wait to pick bell peppers until they turn the color you want.
Once you have the perfect red or other colored bell pepper, you can pick them and store them in the fridge for a week or two without worries. The nice thing about that is getting a whole rainbow from one potted plant. If you want to make a colorful salad or multihued fajita, you can pick a green pepper and let the rest ripen, picking yellow, orange, and red in turn.
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How Do You Ripen Peppers Off The Vine
Some peppers will ripen off the vine. Bell peppers do not, but their spicier cousins can mature a little in a sunny window. Regrettably, you won’t see huge changes. Certainly, most will never go from green to red.
Luckily, if your non-bell peppers were just a hair shy of the ripeness you want for a dish, the sun may help you out. Choose a clean, climate-controlled, sunny location and place your peppers on a light-colored plate. Doing this will reflect some of the sunlight onto the bottom of the pepper.
After a day or two at most, you should refrigerate your peppers. Unless you plan to sundry them, there’s no point in allowing good food to sit and dry out.
Letting it ripen to red on the vine will give you a sweet pepper. There is a persistent myth in gardening that the bumps on your peppers’ bottom indicate their gender and sweetness. However, this is not true. Red bell pepper is sweet and has no gender, whether it has two lobes or five.
Red or fully ripened red bell peppers are the sweetest stages, but the yellow and orange are also sweeter than a green pepper. Whenever you pick them, bell peppers make a tasty meal. Fried, baked or roasted, you’re in for a treat with these unique and colorful savory fruits.
While red bell peppers are often misunderstood, they are not that hard to figure out. Once you’ve grown a few, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.