Why Do Bell Peppers Have Babies Inside?

Here’s a great produce question:

Have you ever cut into a bell pepper, only to find a baby bell pepper inside, often covered in seeds? Or weird stalagmite growths inside that look like they might someday be a pepper?

This is called Internal Proliferation, and is naturally occurring. The little pepper inside the bell pepper is the sign of a ripe, or especially an overripe bell pepper. Its form can vary from irregular, and contorted, to a near-perfect (like how mine appears) but it is sterile fruit. A pepper growing inside a pepper is a type of parthenocarpy, which is the formation of fruits without outside fertilization or the formation of seeds inside it. Now then, you might well see the mini pepper covered in the seeds of the mama pepper. You can pull the seeds off and discard them.

Is the pepper edible? Yes, it is! It should taste the same.

Why does it happen?

You will see this primarily in over ripe produce.

I have been seeing more of them this fall, and my thoughts is they are selling peppers that years ago were sold to food processors instead (like for salsa as an example). I was processing 8 bell peppers today and 3 had mini peppers, a couple more had the start of it. All the peppers were very ripe. Like if I had let them sit another day, the chickens would have had some to eat.

While this doesn’t happen often in home grown bell peppers (because it can take so long to get peppers to grow in the cold PNW), if you live in a hot area, or are using a greenhouse to grow them, you can see it. It is seen far more often in field/greenhouse grown peppers from Mexico (the huge shiny ones sold in the north are grown hydroponically in greenhouses or under grow lights in British Columbia).

This year’s El Nino weather brings many growing issues in Mexico and further south, and the start of the growing season hasn’t been kind to these areas (Peru has seen horrible blueberry crops for weeks already). It does lead to one wondering are they being sold because there simply isn’t enough crop to be picky?

Just thoughts.

But they are perfectly fine to eat. Enjoy it when you see them!