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Green pepper: is it a variety or an unripe fruit?

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You are walking in the grocery store, looking for a tasty pepper for you dinner tonight. You can choose between red, yellow, orange and green. If you closer you see that the green pepper has already a red spot on it. Is this pepper not ready to eat yet, or is there something odd with this pepper?  Well, we’ll clear things up for you!

Genetics and colors
Within the peppers there are 4 unripe fruit colors (green, lilac, white and purple) and 6 colors for the ripe fruits (red, yellow, orange, green and pink).
All the 4 unripe fruit colors can develop in to all 6 ripe fruit colors.

Of course, there are some exceptions. For example, white can never turn in to brown or green. And a purple pepper will turn in to green after heating! This is because the pigment anthocyaan disappears during the heating process. But to come back to the green pepper: Yes there are unripe green peppers that change to the color (ripe) green. This (ripe) green color is more like olive or army green.

The good thing is that genetic markers are available for almost all these colors so that you can determine what the (un)ripe fruit color will be at every stage of the plant cycle. The advantage of these genetic markers is that you can unravel the genetics of the plant before the seed has grown into a full plant. In this way, breeders can develop new varieties more quickly.

The statement: a green pepper is an unripe red pepper is usually true, but only if you are talking about the product in the stores. Why? They actually turn red too quickly.  Every now and then you are able to see in the stores yourself. A green pepper that has been in the store for a while may have a light red/orange spot on it. By using DNA markers, the DNA reveals the real color of the pepper. There are green peppers that are green in every stage (ripe & unripe). However, there are relatively few of these varieties in the store, because there is only 1 variety on the market with these genetics. Most green peppers in the store are therefore unripe red fruits!

Unripe peppers in the store, how does it taste?
Let’s clarify the concept of “unripe” from a biological point of view. A green fruit is “ripe” when it’s ready to eat. However, the seeds in these fruits do not or hardly germinate because the fruit is still unripe from a biological point of view. A green pepper in your supermarket is most of the time unripe,  the taste is also different, this pepper often has a bitter and pungent taste. During the ripening process (which is also visible in the color change), sugars are created, this is why ripe fruits taste more sweet. For this reason many people chose for example more often the red pepper, which is biologically ripe and therefore tastes much sweeter!

To develop a pepper variety with the best characteristics  (taste, shelf life, disease resistance, appearance) talented people are needed. Will you be the new breeder who will bring this pepper to the market? #whatwillyoudo?


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