Have you ever noticed some bell peppers have four lobes while others only have three lobes? Many people believe that peppers that have four lobes are considered a female, and three lobes indicate that the bell pepper is male. If you spend any time on social media, there is a good chance you’ve heard this theory bounced around.
There are many claims and myths about male and female bell peppers. Some people believe female peppers are sweeter and contain more seeds. Other people claim you should only use a three-lobed pepper if you want to make grilled fajitas. Could these theories actually be true? Let’s take a look at what is true and what you need to know about bell peppers!
Pepper Gender Myth
Do vegetables truly have a gender? The flower, not the fruit, has the sexual organ in plants. You might notice as your bell pepper plant grows that there are little flowers before your pepper sprouting on the plant. It is impossible to determine if a fruit has a certain gender.
Bell peppers grow flowers with both male and female parts, often referred to as “perfect” flowers. Peppers are a member of the Nightshade family. Any plant that belongs to the Nightshade family, such as garden tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes, grows “perfect” flowers.
Perfect flowers contain both a male and female sexual reproductive organ – a stamen and pistil. A plant that has individual female and male flowers produce fruit with a particular gender. However, peppers don’t fall into this category! According to botanists, pepper flowers are called hermaphroditic or bisexual.
You are probably wondering how a plant could be hermaphroditic. The fruit of the pepper plants – the actual peppers - contain ovaries, which produce seeds. Each pepper is produced through a self-fertilization process.
Bell peppers come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, typically three inches wide and four inches long. Each pepper will either have three or four lobes. There are some varieties that can have less or more lobes, but that isn’t common. If a pepper with three lobes is a male and four lobes equal a female, what is a five-lobed pepper?
If you follow along with the myth, a bell pepper with four lobes would have more seeds and taste much sweeter than its three lobe counterpart. The most important thing to remember is that this myth is totally inaccurate! The number of lobes - or lack thereof – doesn’t indicate its taste.
The environment where the pepper grows is the best indicator of its sweetness. Clearly, if you grow a bell pepper right beside a ghost pepper plant, your peppers will be influenced by the spicier side. The nutrients in the soil also determine the sweetness of the pepper, as well as the weather and how long you leave the fruit on the vine. If you allow the pepper to mature from green to red, you will find a sweeter pepper no matter the amount of lobes. You can grow a species of pepper known for being sweeter than average.
Proper Nutrients Needed For Bell Peppers
You might be wondering what nutrients bell peppers require to grow a healthy plant. Soil quality and the pH level of the soil decides how the plant absorbs water. 6.0 to 8.0 pH is the best choice for the soil. Also, well-draining soil that isn’t too sandy or clay-filled is ideal.
Gardeners need to consider more than just pH level and type of soil. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are needed to produce a healthy plant and fruit. A 20-20-20 fertilizer provides all of the vital nutrients if your soil isn’t as healthy as needed.
Female Peppers Have More Seeds
The next myth to consider is the theory that four lobe peppers have the most seeds. It is possible that this myth could be true, but the overall size of the pepper is a better indicator of a number of seeds. Truth be told, there is no way to determine how many seeds your fruit will contain until you slice it open. There are huge peppers with only a small amount of seeds, or you could open up a small pepper with a large number of seeds.
All peppers have at least one chamber that produces seeds. Every pepper has an individual amount of chambers, determined by genetics. However, chambers also do not determine how many seeds a pepper will generate.
Purpose For Each Pepper
The gender myth was typically believed by chefs until social media and the Internet pushed it forward. Many people believe that each pepper, based on its “gender” or amount of lobes, tastes better if eaten appropriately. According to the myth, a female pepper is sweeter if eaten raw, but you do have to remove all of those supposedly extra seeds.
On the other hand, if you are making fajitas or grilling peppers, you should look for a three-lobed, or male, pepper. Because they have few seeds, these peppers are supposedly less sweet and better for cooking. Many chefs stick to this theory and search out the correct lobed pepper for their recipe. However, there is no scientific proof that lobes determine the taste and, therefore, the best cooking purpose.
In the world of social media, it is easy to fall for all of these little tips and tricks. While this theory has circulated for years, it is important to remember that there are no male and female bell peppers. The plants are hermaphroditic, meaning that they contain both male and female parts. While plants with specific plants can create fruits with a certain gender, pepper plants are different.
Pepper plants can have two to five lobes. The number of lobes means absolutely nothing. Four lobe peppers don’t always contain more seeds than one with fewer lobes. Three lobe peppers don’t taste less sweet. You can use any pepper for any recipe. There is no reason to search through the pepper bin at the grocery store.