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Bell Peppers: Differences Between Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red

Margaret Minnicks is a health-conscious person who researches the health benefits of foods and drinks.

Green, red, yellow, orange . . . what's the difference?

Green, red, yellow, orange . . . what's the difference?

Many people wonder why green, red, orange, and yellow bell peppers don't cost the same amount in grocery stores. Some even argue that since they taste the same, they should be priced the same.

In reality, the different colors don't taste the same—nor do they have the same nutritional value. Bell peppers vary in more ways than color, and what color pepper you choose should depend on what you are hoping to get out of it.

Why Do They Come in Different Colors?

You may have wondered at some point whether the different colors of bell pepper come from the same plant. They do! There are two major factors that determine a pepper's color:

  1. The time of harvesting/degree of ripening
  2. The varietal

All bell peppers start out green and change color as they mature. If it's not picked, a green pepper may become yellow, orange, or red, depending on its varietal. The longer the fruit stays on the vine, the sweeter it becomes and the more nutritional value it gains. Since they were less ripe when picked, green peppers have longer shelf lives but are less nutrient-dense than peppers that have matured to another color.

Less common bell pepper colors include purple and white.

Less common bell pepper colors include purple and white.

What Colors Do They Come In?

The bell peppers seen most commonly in grocery stores' produce sections are green, yellow, orange, and red. Many additional colors exist, but they are rarely available in major stores. Dark purple, brown, white, and lavender varieties also exist and can sometimes be found at farmers' markets and specialty stores.

Why Do Some Colors Cost More Than Others?

People often wonder why bell pepper prices vary so much depending on color. Most store clerks don't even know why the green peppers are cheaper than the yellow, orange, and red ones. The answer is quite simple.

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The yellow, orange, and red peppers are more expensive than the green ones because they are harvested later and spend more time on the vine. The green ones are the cheapest because they are picked earlier while they are still unripe.

The ripe yellow, orange, and red peppers available at stores are left on the plant longer, meaning they receive additional time, water, and care from farmers. The additional time and resources that go into cultivating ripe bell peppers are factored into their prices.

Green Bell Peppers

  • People purchase more green peppers than any other color—likely because they are the cheapest.
  • All yellow, orange, and red bell peppers are green before they ripen.
  • Because they are harvested before they are ripe, green peppers don't have as high a concentration of nutrients and aren't as sweet as others.

Yellow, Orange, and Red Bell Peppers

  • Yellow, orange, and red bell peppers are sweeter and less bitter than green ones.
  • Non-green peppers have a shorter shelf life and are typically more expensive.
  • Red bell peppers have 11 times more beta-carotene, twice as much vitamin C, and 10 times more vitamin A than green bell peppers, which are harvested earlier.

A Comparison of Bell Pepper Color Varieties

ColorHarvestedTasteNutrient ConcentrationPrice

Green

Unripe

Less sweet, more bitter

Lower

Lower

Yellow

Ripe

More sweet, less bitter

Higher

Higher

Orange

Ripe

More sweet, less bitter

Higher

Higher

Red

Ripe

More sweet, less bitter

Higher

Higher

Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Which bell pepper is harvested when it is unripe?
    • Red
    • Green
    • Yellow
    • Orange
  2. Which bell pepper is the cheapest?
    • Red
    • Green
    • Orange
    • Yellow
  3. Which bell pepper is the most bitter?
    • Green
    • Red
    • Yellow
    • Orange
  4. Which bell pepper is the least expensive?
    • Green
    • Yellow
    • Orange
    • Red

Answer Key

  1. Green
  2. Green
  3. Green
  4. Green

References

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