All About Male And Female Bell Peppers Myth: Is It The Truth?

If you’re a gardener or a cook you must have come across the claim that you can tell the gender of a bell pepper by the counting the number of bumps or lobes at the bottom of the fruit. It is not a trivial thing to encounter especially since every now and then some blog post or article starts talking about how you can discriminate and differentiate between male and female bell peppers.

It’s a curious thing to discover on the internet, and to get to the bottom of it, I decided to find out for myself if there is any truth to this theory. 

My question was simple – what is the reasoning behind the male and female bell peppers theory? What I found was that the gender myth was completely false and has no scientific or botanical backing whatsoever. Exactly how can one simply count the number of lobes on bell peppers and determine its sweetness is beyond my conception.

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Aren’t we forgetting a basic piece of information – that some plants, like bell peppers, are bisexual and that there is no way to say that one is male and the other female?

There is a lot of misconception surrounding the gender theory regarding peppers. To think that vegetables have gender may seem a little preposterous. The flower, and not the fruit, of a plant have sexual organs. So where does this theory come from? Let’s find out and put an end to this recurring myth once and for all.

After you are done reading this article, I can assure you that you will never give in to misinformation of this sort that seeks to misguide people.

The Gender Myth in Bell Pepper Theory

It is believed that the number of lobes or bumps at the bottom of the fruit is indicative of its sex or gender. According to the myth, female bell peppers have four lobes, while male bell peppers have three lobes. Additionally, the female bell peppers are sweeter than their male counterparts and are full of seeds. However, the question stands – is this a valid indicator of bell pepper gender?

male and female bell pepper

The Fact

As a gardener, you may notice that as the bell pepper plant grows, there are little flowers before the pepper fruit sprouting on the plant. Bell pepper plants grow flowers with both male and female parts. These are often called “perfect” flowers. But to consider that the fruit of a plant has a gender is an excursion into unscientific territory.

A plant that has an individual female or male flowers produce fruits with a particular gender. But bell peppers do not fall into this category. Botanists consider bell pepper flowers to be hermaphroditic or bisexual.

Now, you may wonder how a plant can be bisexual, or a hermaphrodite. This is because the plant self-fertilizes and produces seeds. That is why their flowers are called “perfect” flowers, and are neither strictly male nor female.

Bell peppers also come in different shapes and sizes. Most of the bell peppers max out at 4 inches long by 3 inches wide, and will usually have three to four lobes. However, some of them have fewer lobes while others have more. So, since the gender theory dictates that lobes indicate gender, what gender would a two- or a five-lobed pepper have?

Ultimately, scientific investigation into this gender theory tells us that the number of lobes on bell peppers have no bearing to the gender or sex of the plant. The flowers of the plant are bisexual, and produce both sex organs within them. That takes care of gender.

Bell Pepper Seeds and Sweetness Myth

If you follow the details of the myth, it dictates that the gender of the bell pepper will determine its sweetness. Therefore, according to the myth, a four-lobed female bell pepper is sweeter than a three-lobed male bell pepper, and that is because of the difference in the number of seeds. The female bell pepper has more seeds that make it sweeter than the male bell pepper with fewer seeds.

male vs female peppers

The Fact

It is important to note that the myth is totally ungrounded and inaccurate. The number of lobes does not determine the taste of the fruit. This theory of male vs. female peppers is not only scientifically unsound, but also logically inconsistent.

Firstly, all bell peppers contain chambers in which seeds develop. The number of lobes, or chambers, is genetic and has no impact on the number of seeds that are going to be produced. Secondly, the number of seeds or lobes has no direct relation to its sweetness.

There are many factors that will determine the sweetness level of bell peppers, and the number of lobes or seeds is not one of them. The environment in which you grow bell peppers is the number one factor that will dictate sweetness. If, for example, you grow a bell pepper plant next to a ghost pepper plant, clearly it’s going to be influenced on the spicier side.

Secondly, the nutrients in the soil and the weather will also play a huge role in having sweet bell peppers. Thirdly, the amount of time for which you leave the fruit on the vine is also a factor that will determine the level of sweetness.

If you allow the fruit to mature and go from green to red, the sweetness level of the fruit will increase regardless of the number of lobes of seeds. You may even develop bell pepper fruits that are sweeter than average.

Origins of Male and Female Bell Peppers Myth

No one really knows where this myth came from but the fact that it has persevered to this day does say a lot about the power of belief. People who blatantly deny common scientific facts may argue that the bell pepper gender theory has a grain of truth in it since it’s been in common practice for centuries.

Sure, this old cook’s tale about identifying male and female peppers by counting the number of lobes may have made people feel good about their own sense of culinary knowledge. This usually is translated into – “A three-lobed bell pepper will not be as sweet but is ideal for cooking, while a four-lobed bell pepper is better consumed raw.”

But the fact remains – Bell peppers do not have any gender. Mostly, the picture used to justify this myth is that of a green bell pepper which happens to be a sign of immaturity. If you can detect the subtle difference between sweetness levels of one green pepper and another, then you truly have a sensitive palate.

However, as botanists would agree, the red bell pepper is the sweetest of them all since it is as ripe as a bell pepper can be. Most cooks do not buy into the gender myth, but it is possible that people just like sharing misinformation on the internet.

What’s So Interesting About The Bell Pepper Myth?

In a few words – absolutely nothing! There is no reason to believe this myth allows cooks to make better decisions or to sift through to get the sweeter ones when buying them in the market. However, the fact that pepper plants have “perfect flower” that contain the sex of both male and female, also known as hermaphrodites or bisexuals, is pretty interesting.

This fact is true for all of the Nightshade family members, such as tomatoes, eggplants, chili peppers, etc. They have stamens and carpels – the reproductive systems of both male and female.

Then, the truth of the matter is simply that bell peppers are genderless. The flowers of the pepper plant themselves contain all the sexes they need to self-fertilize. In short, this is a pepper that breaks down all sorts of barriers.

Is The Bell Pepper Gender Myth of Any Use?

The myth surround bell pepper gender has been around for years, but recently has resurfaced on social media sites like Pinterest. However, no matter how many times this information is posted and shared, it cannot change the fundamental fact that the bumps on the fruit’s surface cannot determine its sex or gender. This is in part because these cannot be categorized as being wholly one or the other.

Even though most people agree to the fact that fruits are without sex or gender, many food blogs still insist on the usefulness of the propagation of such myths and rumors. Some of them write that assigning a gender may not be scientifically accurate but it may help cooks remember how to choose the right bell peppers.

female bell peppers

Some of these writers insist that the gender reference is only used as an aid to help people select the best bell pepper for different purposes, be it for eating it raw, for cooking, or for seed collection. Then they go on to describe the simple method for identifying the traits of the bell pepper you desire.

This includes identifying the four lobed fruit as a female bell pepper and the three lobed fruit as a male bell pepper. Furthermore, they complicate matters by legitimizing the use of the myth. This they do by saying that the female bell peppers are best for seed collection and eating raw because they are sweet, while male bell peppers are better for grilling and cooking, for they contain fewer seeds.

The above claim is undeniably unfounded since the number of lobes does not link to the taste of bell peppers. It may be argued that a four-lobed bell peppers has more seeds than its three-lobed counterpart, this is essentially due to the overall size and has little to do with the number of lobes. It seems like we have come full circle.

Do These “Female Peppers” Have More Seeds?

If we buy into the gender myth, a female pepper has four lobes and is larger in size. This may be possible since a larger lobe size means more cavity space in which the seeds can grow. But even this is not completely true. The peppers contain multiple sections or chambers that contain the white pithy tissues that are covered with seeds.

The exact number of chambers or sections does not indicate that the bell pepper has more seeds. However, more lobes may mean more seeds if you are hunting for bell pepper seeds.

Bell Pepper Reproductive Morphology

A bit of science is necessary if we are to get to the core of the problem of this myth. There are many plants that have individual male or female flowers. Some have only one gender or sex of the flower while others have both.

Within the scope of plant reproduction, it is possible for certain plants to bear fruits that are specific in gender or sex (usually female). But, as we have already said before, this does not apply to bell peppers.

male bell peppers

Bell peppers are the fruits of Capsicum annuum. It is the fruit that contains the ovaries that in turn produces seeds. Every single bell pepper is produced via self-fertilization of the flowers that are both male and female in nature. That is to say, they are bisexual, or hermaphrodites.

Every individual bell pepper contains one or more locules and a central placenta that produce the seeds. The number of locules is purely genetic and is in no way indicative of either male or the female sex, as the myth would have people believe. This also has no impact on the sweetness or the number of seeds produced.

Now that you are aware of the fascinating science behind how bell peppers produce seeds, you can disseminate the information to help people break through the gender myth that has crept into our daily lives.

In short, the information regarding the bell pepper myth is completely false and you should ignore the whole debate entirely. You can continue to treat all bell peppers the same way you always have and save yourself precious time and effort.

More About Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are vegetables that are ideally grown in warm-seasons. They are part of the Nightshade family that includes tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants. Peppers can be easily grown and are prolific producers. They can also be grown in a variety of shapes, sizes, flavors, and colors. For example, green bell peppers have a green color because they are in their immature stage. When bell peppers ripen, they take on a red, yellow, orange or purple color.

As is the case with most fruits and vegetables, the sweetness of bell peppers is related to how ripe they are. They start out green, and then ripen to take on a yellow color, then orange, then red, and sometime even purple. Therefore, the color of bell peppers is a good indicator of sweetness. The lobes of bell peppers are determined be genetic factors and growing conditions, and are in no way an indicator of sweetness.

This is also the reason why bell peppers come in different colors and prices. It is not only a matter of pigment discrimination. Bell peppers that are red and yellow are simply green bell peppers that have been allowed to ripen on the vine a bit longer.

Red peppers are fully ripened bell peppers and require a longer time to grow. On the other hand, the green bell peppers are harvested sooner and are therefore cheaper to grow and sell in the market. They also have their trademark mildly bitter flavor. The yellow bell peppers are somewhere in the middle of the ripeness spectrum, though there are some varieties that stay yellow even when fully mature.

Bell peppers also differ in their nutritional value depending on how ripe they are. Although green bell peppers are not an unhealthy choice by any stretch of the imagination, their more mature and bigger cousins have around twice the Vitamin C and almost nine times extra beta-carotene.

male and female peppers

Nutritious value of bell peppers

As a whole plant food, eating bell pepper is associated with a host of health benefits. Consuming fruits and vegetables has also been linked to a reduced risk of developing many chronic illnesses, including cancer and heart ailments.

Bell peppers are a great source of vitamin A and C, as well as beta-carotene. This makes them an excellent choice for healthy diets. They also contain many essential minerals to the body, including iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, manganese, and selenium. They are also cheap and taste great.

Eating bell peppers regularly can greatly benefit your eyes and protect your retina. The risk of cataracts and macular degeneration is also reduced if your diet is high in bell peppers. Red bell peppers specifically are high in antioxidants that cleanse your body from within.

Another nutritious value that bell peppers bring to your health is the reduced risk of developing anemia. Anemia is a condition characterized by a reduction in the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to different parts of the body. Eating bell peppers can greatly build up your body’s iron reserves and cut down the risk of anemia.

Adverse reactions to bell peppers

When taken in moderation, bell peppers can provide a variety of health benefits. However, a small percentage of the population is allergic to bell peppers and you should contact your doctor if allergic symptoms begin to manifest.

People can also have pollen allergy and may be sensitive to bell peppers because of its allergic cross-reactivity. This allergic cross-reactivity can occur in foods that contain the same allergens, or allergens that are similar in their chemical structure.

Proper Nutrients Needed for Growing Bell Peppers

Since you’ve been with us right throughout this article, we have reason to assume that you may be a gardener or are interested in growing bell peppers yourself. Knowing the proper nutrients required to grow bell peppers is essential for the growth of a healthy plant.

Firstly, the quality of the soil and the pH level of the soil will determine how the plant absorbs water. A good quality organic soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 8.0 is ideal for growing bell peppers. Additionally, a well-drained soil that isn’t too clay-filled or sandy is perfect.

But gardeners need to consider more than just pH levels and the type of soil. In order to produce a healthy plant, nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are needed. If your soil doesn’t provide a healthy environment, a 20-20-20 fertilizer should provide all the vital nutrients needed to grow a healthy bell pepper plant.

Conclusion

One may think that the gender myth regarding bell peppers is a relatively harmless thing to believe. But the fact of the matter is that if you start believing in one lie, you open yourself up to more. And the internet and our world are full of them.

The idea is not how silly the topic is, for there are no silly topics. The chief battle is against fake news and misinformation that is diverting our minds and focus onto things that are clearly untrue.

The more we give into a popular belief without doing our own research, the more we fall into the trap of being led like sheep. The power of belief is a curiously dangerous thing. Even after people are shown all the proof, they might still hold on to their beliefs and wonder if there isn’t some grain of truth in it. They might go as far as to mold the truth to fit their beliefs.

Finally – as we have said a million times in this article, for repetition is necessary to get the idea across – there is no such thing as male and female bell peppers as they do not have a gender. Nor can the lobes on their surface determine its level of sweetness. The only thing that dictates sweetness is the color which shows how ripe the fruit is.

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