The claim: The gender of bell peppers can be determined by the number of bumps
A March 29 Facebook post brought back a myth about the gender of bell peppers.
“Flip the bell peppers over to check their gender. The ones with 4 bumps are females and those with three bumps are males. The female peppers are full of seeds, but sweeter and better for raw eating and the males are better for cooking. I didn’t know this.”
The post has more than 300 shares and comments such as “Wow learn something new all the time.” USA TODAY reached out the user for a comment.
Over the last couple of years this claim has been found on Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram.
There are tweets that date as far back as 2013 where users claim bell peppers have a gender and that it can be determined by the number of lobes, or bumps, that they have.
According to a Google Trends search, the phrase “bell pepper gender” generated the highest peaks of interest in September 2015, October 2016 and February 2018.
Fact check:Bending an electrical wire won’t stop flow of electricity
The number of bumps does not indicate gender
In 2015, Snopes debunked the claim and cited David Karp, a pomologist at University of California Riverside, who said: “The supposition that there are male and female peppers is a common canard, but untrue. Peppers grow from flowers that have both male and female parts. The fruits do not have a gender.”
Bell pepper plants are known as “perfect flowers” because they contain a calyx, corolla and both male and female reproductive parts, according to The Encyclopedia of Fruit and Nuts. So while bell pepper flowers have both male and female parts, the bell peppers, which are the fruits of the plant, do not.
The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences reported on the claim in 2019 in Chow Line, a service provided by the college and its outreach and research arms.
Tracy Turner, the technical editor for Chow Line, explained that the bell peppers each contain ovaries that produce the seeds that are inside and each pepper is then produced through self-fertilization. The seeds are formed in each pepper after pollination, and with those seeds they are able to form new pepper plants.
“The bumps or lack thereof are primarily related to the variety and growing conditions,” according to the Oregon State University Extension Service.
Fact check:The deadline to file 2020 federal taxes was extended to May 17
What about the amount of seeds?
The meme also implies that “female” bell peppers have more seeds.
“And while it could be argued a four-lobed pepper has more seeds than a three-lobed pepper, this has more to do with the overall size of the fruit than the number of lobes,” wrote Snopes.
But it is not an uncommon situation for a smaller bell pepper to have more seeds.
“I’ve had some gargantuan peppers with barely a seed inside while some of the smaller ones have had numerous seeds,” wrote Nikki Tilley in Gardening Know How.
Fact check:Puffiness of bagged lettuce does not indicate freshness
The ‘sweetness factor’?
The post also claims that “female” bell peppers, or those with four lobes, are sweeter than the “male” ones with three.
“The lobes on peppers are determined by growing conditions and genetics, so they don’t indicate the sweetness factor of the pepper in any way,” reported Turner.
She added that the number of bumps has no impact on the taste of the bell peppers. Just like any other fruit or vegetable, they go through the process of changing colors, which indicates ripeness and therefore flavor. Bell peppers start out green, then turn yellow, then orange, and then red. In some cases they even turn purple. This means that a yellow, orange, red or purple pepper will generally be sweeter than a green one, said Turner.
Our rating: False
The claim that the gender of bell peppers can be determined by the number of bumps or lobes is FALSE, based on our research. The number of lobes, as well as the amount of seeds, is typically based on the size of the bell pepper. And the sweetness is also not affected by gender, but rather by the ripeness of the bell pepper.
Our fact-check sources:
- Snopes, Feb. 9, 2015, “Do Bell Peppers Have Genders?”
- The Encyclopedia of Fruit and Nuts,, Accessed on April 1
- Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, July 12, 2019, “Chow Line: No such thing as male and female bell peppers”
- Oregon State University Extension Service, June 10, 2015, “Are there male and female peppers?”
- Gardening Know How, updated March 30, Are Bell Pepper Lobes An Indicator Of Pepper Plant Gender And Seed Production?
- KCRW, April 9, 2013, “Ask Evan: Is it true that you can tell the gender of a bell pepper by counting the number of bumps on the bottom?”
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.