An image of green bell pepper lobes making an extraordinary claim seems to never stop making the rounds on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. The written message on the image claims that you should flip over bell peppers to check their gender. The ones with four bumps are females and the ones 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 had never planned on bothering to write an article about this claim because it was well covered on Snopes and other websites. But, I’m so sick of this nonsense being circulated despite being debunked, that I thought it time to add another debunking. Otherwise, if people don’t continue to counter it, this “fact” about bell peppers may never go away. It’s one of those cute little food facts people like to believe even though it may make them waste time searching for a three-lobed pepper and avoiding ones with four lobes.
The number of lobes (bumps) on the end of a bell pepper does not indicate the fruit’s gender. Bell peppers do not have gender. They come from flowers with both male and female reproductive parts and can self-pollinate if needed.
As well, a pepper with more seeds will simply be a larger pepper. The seeds are attached to membranes and this has no bearing on the taste of the pepper’s flesh nor their suitability for cooking. I understand that due to the power of belief perseverance that many will accept the botanical facts but still insist that there is a grain of truth. They will state that, sure, peppers don’t have gender but the facts about cooking still apply and that a three-lobed pepper will not be as sweet but will be better for cooking while a four-lobed pepper will be better for eating raw.
Given this belief, look at the choice of image. Green bell peppers are not sweet. They are essentially an unripe fruit. Bell peppers, while ripening turn yellow, then orange, then red. A red bell pepper will be the sweetest. If you can detect a subtle difference in sweetness between one green pepper and another, then you truly have a sensitive palate. I actually do not think that many cooks are following through on this instruction. I think people just love sharing nonsense on social media. But, if I can save even a few people some time wasted counting pepper lobes, then I think it’s worth adding another voice to the chorus of authoritative websites that have already debunked this myth.
Thinking that the number of lobes the bottom of a pepper signals gender and affects its flavor is a harmless enough thing to believe. However, if you accept one bit of nonsense, you open yourself up to more. And besides, now you know you can simply choose the freshest pepper that is the size you need, without counting the lobes!