Longevity of Ripe Red Peppers


“Hi Mertie,

I was wondering if you could help me out with a pepper question that we had happen last fall. I like to let my peppers stay on the vine until they are red, but find that they rot in no time at all ones they are picked. For example, if on Saturday I picked 4 peppers that had just finished turning red, they were mush by Monday night. The green peppers I picked on Friday are still nice. What gives? We have had some wet weather, but the plants did not have any diseases and the fruit was not laying on the ground.

Thank you,
Barb in Powersville, MO”

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Hi Barb,

Thanks for your question regarding peppers.

Red Peppers

Your experience with your peppers last fall is a great example of the damage that can be done to a fruit by the presence of ethylene gas.

As a fruit ripens, the process is aided along by the naturally-occuring plant hormone ethylene.  This hormone is released by the plant to soften the fruit tissue, convert various compounds in the fruit from acids to sugars, and degrades the chlorophyll that makes the fruit green so that the other pigments that were always in the fruit (but had chlorophyll blocking them out) are able to be seen.  Once the process has completed, you are left with fruit tissue that is somewhat softer and much sweeter.  This is a FEAST for bacteria and mold, and, as you experienced, your pepper fruit does not last too long after that.

While this process occurs in all fruits, some are able to deal with it better.  For example, apples have a tough skin on them and acids that remain in the flesh of the fruit once it has ripened.  Squashes and pumpkins have a hard rind.  Citrus have a thick skin studded with oil pores that contain essential oils full of d-limonene, which is substantial anitmicrobial properties.

Unfortunately, fruits like peppers don’t have much to protect them.The high sugar and water content of the fruit sets it up for disaster.  Also, green peppers contain 1-2% more oxygen in their air cavity than red peppers.  Although that doesn’t seem like much, it is just enough to prevent the anaerobic respiration that is preferred by bacteria.

So, unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that red peppers usually go soft in the fridge after about 2 days, while green peppers go soft in a week or two in the fridge.  I find that if you want to have red peppers to use in the kitchen, it is best to freeze them or eat them raw in a very short amount of time.

Sorry I don’t have a better answer.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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