People usually think that the existence of different bell pepper colors mean that there are several varieties of the fruit sold in the supermarket. Yes, they are called fruits because botanically speaking they are. Still, many refer to them as a vegetable in the culinary context.
When it comes to the color, the secret is that green peppers are just unripe versions of the yellow and red ones. This means that although you see them each getting their own section on the produce shelf, they are basically the same vegetable.
There are two main factors that determine why the same plant have different colors: the time it was harvested and degree of ripening. Because of the chemistry of the vegetable, the vibrant traffic light colors you see means that the bell pepper has a different taste and aroma and each color has different nutritional benefits.
Green bell pepper is unripe and tastes bitter than the red and yellow bell peppers.
The unripe green bell pepper is plant-like and it is rich in chlorophyll and aldehydes that give it a “green smell.” This distinct green bell pepper smell, a.k.a. bell pepper pyrazine, is primarily due to the compound 2-methoxy-3-isobutylpyrazine.
Because they are harvested before they mature, green bell peppers are less nutritious than its red counterpart. But that doesn’t mean they’re not healthy at all. They are rich in potassium and they still have vitamin A and C in them. At the same time, they are cheaper than the red ones because they spend less time on the ground. Also, they tend to taste bitter.
When the green pepper ripens, the chlorophyll pigments break down and other types of pigments take over. The yellow to orange color then happens and that’s because of the presence of lutein and beta-carotene.
Yellow and orange bell peppers are harvested midway into the fruit’s maturity.
According to Compound Chem, green ones have small amounts of lutein and beta-carotene but the synthesis of these chemicals increase as the fruit ripens. Lutein contributes to the yellow pigment of egg yolks while beta-carotene is the reason for the orange color of carrots.
Yellow to orange bell peppers are even more nutritious than red peppers but of course, they have fewer nutrients compared to the ripe red bell peppers.
They are also sweeter than the green ones. Compared to greens, yellows have more vitamin A and C levels.
The mature bell pepper is the sweetest and most expensive out of all the colors.
Lastly, the ripe and fully mature red bell pepper is the sweetest and most nutritious of them all. The red color is due to carotenoids, capsanthin and capsorubin. Because they are left on the ground longer than the earlier colors, they tend to be more expensive as well. They also tend to have shorter shelf-life, which is also one of the reasons why they are more expensive.
It should be noted that in most cases, the green ones always mature to yellow then red, but it may not be true for all. There are cultivars of bell peppers that mature and stop at the yellow/orange color. A purple variety even exists. These fruits are such a wonder.
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