While browsing through my local grocery store I spied a bag of three organic bell peppers (two red and one green) on sale for $1. Ka-ching! SCORE! Heck, I am lucky to find one non organic pepper at that price, let alone three. I snatched those babies up to make some roasted peppers. As I was washing them I noticed one of the red peppers had three lobes and the other had four. And immediately my mind rushed to the myth of bell pepper gender.
Flip the bell peppers over to check their gender. The ones with four bumps are female and those with three bumps are male. The female peppers are full of seeds, but sweeter and better for eating raw and the males are better for cooking.
I then asked myself, what would Jamie and Adam do if confronted with this myth? So, in honor of the start of the 10th season of Mythbusters on May 1 I figured it was time to put it to the test. I was going to write a parody of the show, but explosions would have to be involved and considering Monday’s tragedy, I opted to shelve that idea.
There are three parts to myth. First up is do peppers have gender? My hypothesis was this is ridiculous, fruit doesn’t have gender. A little research gave me 10 pages of people repeating this myth without investigation and this gem from Foodreference.com
Peppers have complete flowers, that is both male and female parts in the same flower. *
Male and female fruit can only come from plant types that have separate male and female flowers, and with a few exceptions, only the female flowers produce fruit. (one of the exceptions – some papaya male flowers will set fruit).
The number of lobes is related to the specific variety of pepper. There are varieties of peppers that produce 2, 3-4, or 3-5 lobed peppers. The 4 lobed ‘bell’ pepper was (and is) more popular in the U.S., so plants have been breed for this characteristic.
* (Pepper trees [black & white pepper] have separate male and female flowers).
I verified this a few more places but they started to get very scientific with lots of botany terms. This would be the part of Mythbusters where they speed up the sound so it comes out sounding blah blah blah. I was partially correct. Apparently there are fruits that have gender, but bell pepper plants contain complete flowers and self pollinate so they aren’t one of them. Go ahead and do your own research into plant reproduction if you desire, I am calling this part BUSTED!
The next part of the myth is that the supposed “female” pepper produces more seeds. Let’s cut these babies open, shall we?
I admit it is a small sample size, one of each, and I did not actually count or weigh the seeds. But can we call this part BUSTED too?
Third part of the myth is taste. Again, small sample size, only one taster and I only took one bite of each since raw bell peppers don’t agree with my since my pregnancy (weird, I know). No difference that I could note. BUSTED.
So, based on the two bell peppers I tested and the 5 minutes of online research I was willing to waste on this inane topic, my conclusion is MYTH BUSTED!!
Now shall we move on to the cooking part?
Put them in salads, on sandwiches or make Pimento Cheese.
Until next time, happy eating.