I saw an interesting post on Facebook about the Gender of Peppers. The post went on about how three lobed peppers were male and 4 lobed peppers are female and that there is a difference in taste, use and number of seeds. I wondered if this were true. Something seemed to be wrong about this. Could it possibly be true or was this another case of someone uncritically reposting some bit of folklore or outright untruth?
Once I tried to correct a Facebook post that repeated one of those bits of folklore about food – the one about how cut onions are poisonous. I was ignored even though I pointed out that Snopes had brought out its falsity. And since the onion story was tied in the post with another subject (religion!) which muddied the thoughts being expressed, there were a number of comments after mine that loudly agreed with the poster. Which were they agreeing with, the cut onion thing or the religious sentiments? I have no idea. But, I learned my lesson. From time to time these posts about food folklore may show up here, instead of my trying to directly debunk them. Then at least, if people ignore me it won’t be so obvious!
To tell you the truth I have never noticed any difference in the taste of any pepper, except according to ripeness and that difference being very slight. Most peppers I have bought or raised seemed to be four-lobed as far as I can remember. I think the taste thing seemed to be what clued me that something was amiss with this statement.
I looked up agricultural extensions for a couple of states and found no mention of bell pepper gender. I would think something that important about plant biology would have been mentioned. But they did not address the issue outright.
Finally on a site called helium.com “Where knowledge rules” (!!!) I found an article by Megan Stoddard on bell peppers that seems to tie the whole matter up. You can read the whole thing at: http://www.helium.com/items/1996863-the-difference-between-three-bottomed-bell-peppers-and-four-bottomed-bell-peppers The most significant part of the article I quote here:
“If there is any such thing as male and female bell peppers, the designation is culinary, not biological, and if it is a culinary designation, it does not appear to be a widespread one. Fruits (bell peppers are biologically fruits, being the seed bearing part of the plant) have no gender. They are not the plant’s sexual parts, but the vehicles for its offspring, formed only after the plant has been pollinated and fertilized. On most flowering plants, including bell peppers, the flowers that become the fruit have both male and female parts, making them androgynous. All bell peppers, then, are hermaphrodites.”
There, now I feel better.