Peppers are a staple of backyard gardens. Their multicolored fruits (yes peppers are actually fruits) add a nice splash of color to garden beds with their green, red, orange and yellow exteriors. However, coming across a black colored pepper in the garden will leave many gardeners shocked and bewildered. So why are some peppers turning black? I decided to find out.
So what causes peppers to turn black? When peppers turn black, it is usually just a phase in the ripening process. While some peppers simply change from green to red, other peppers will start out green then begin to turn black and then finally red, orange or yellow.
While peppers commonly turn black during the ripening process, peppers can also turn black for a number of other reasons as well. If your peppers are turning black but show no sign of changing, there is likely another reason as to why your peppers are turning black.
Peppers love warm weather. But late in the growing season when the temperatures begin to fall, the cooler weather can have some adverse effects on your peppers. A drastic decrease in temperature can cause exposed areas of the peppers growing on the plant to turn black. Although this can be an eyesore, it has no effect on the pepper’s taste.
There are a few ways to combat this type of blackening. One way is to harvest your peppers before the temperature drops too much. Keep an eye on the forecast. If the temperature drops by more than 30° F (16.8° C) within a few days, harvest any peppers you can before the cooler temperatures begin to turn them black.
If you have peppers that aren’t ready for harvest or you simply just don’t want to harvest any of your peppers yet, another option is to cover your pepper plants with a frost protection blanket. This will protect your peppers from the cooler temperatures as well as from snow, wind and frost. Alternatively, you can cover your pepper plants with just about anything (ex. Cardboard box or plastic container) however, frost protection blankets provide much better insulation while still allowing your plants to breathe.
While the blackness caused by cooler temperatures has little to no effect on the pepper’s taste, covering up your pepper plants before cooler temperatures arrive is still a good idea. Most pepper plants are not very frost tolerant and even a light frost can severely damage or even outright kill your pepper plants.
Peppers that are turning black and can also be a symptom of a nutrient deficiency. When pepper plants enter the flowering and fruiting stage of their life cycle, they rely a lot more on phosphorous. If the pepper plants are not receiving enough phosphorus, the fruits can begin to turn black.
In addition to giving your peppers some ugly black spots on their skin, a lack of phosphorus can also give your pepper plants plenty of other unwanted side effects as well. These side effects include decreases in fruit quality, decreased disease resistance and also poor stem and root development. Therefore, the blackening of your peppers may be a signal of far greater problems.
One way to correct this problem is to add some phosphorus based fertilizers to the soil around your pepper plants. Bone meal and rock phosphate are great examples of all natural, organic phosphorus based fertilizers. While both fertilizers work great in the garden, I would recommend bone meal in this instance as bone meal is known to work faster and allow the pepper plant to absorb the phosphorus nutrients easier thus solving the nutrient deficiency problem quicker.
Blackening Peppers can also be a symptom of a number of plant diseases peppers are vulnerable to. Blossom end rot for instance, causes black withered spots on peppers that enlarge overtime. This is most commonly caused by a lack of calcium in the plant.
While blossom end rot can’t be reversed, you can prevent it from occurring on other peppers by ensuring you water your plants on a consistent basis. Additionally, adding a crushed up calcium tablet to your water can help the pepper plant get a quick boost of calcium thus preventing blossom end rot.
Another disease notorious for causing black spots on peppers is anthracnose. Anthracnose will produce dark lesions on the surface of peppers as well as the leaves and stems of the pepper plant. If left untreated, anthracnose can kill your pepper plant.
If your pepper plants begin to develop symptoms of anthracnose, prune the infected areas of the plant and dispose of them. Next, spray the pepper plants with a copper fungicide in order to eradicate any trace of the disease still lingering on the plant. To prevent anthracnose from appearing again, aim to keep the soil well drained and avoid watering your peppers from overhead as wet leaves make for a good environment for anthracnose to form.
If you’re Peppers are still Black…
Perhaps your peppers have no exposure to the cold, no nutrient deficiencies and show no sign of changing color but still remain black. What could this mean? If nothing else, this likely means your peppers are just naturally black. Some varieties of pepper plants are known to produce black colored peppers. Despite their obscure color, the color plays no part in determining how spicy it is. Some black peppers are can be exceptionally hot while some are rather mild.
Some common varieties of black peppers include:
-Black Cobra Peppers
-Black Hungarian Peppers
-Black Pearl Peppers
-Black Pearl Peppers
Peppers can turn black for a variety of reasons. While they most commonly turn black due to the ripening process, blackening peppers can be a symptom of disease, lack of nutrients, cooler temperatures or are just naturally have a black color. Unless it is caused by disease, black peppers can be consumed just as any other pepper; the black color has no effect on the taste. Hopefully by now you determined why your peppers are turning black.
Why are my Peppers Turning Purple? Peppers that turn purple can also just be a phase in the ripening process. In this case, peppers will start out green, then turn to a dark purple and then finally red. Additionally, some varieties such as the purple beauty pepper have a natural purple color to them.
Will Peppers ripen off the Plant? Once a pepper is harvested, it will continue to ripen however, the ripening process slows down significantly after it is harvested off of the pepper plant. If you wish to speed up the ripening process after the peppers have been harvested, exposure to sunlight can help speed up the process.
When to Harvest Peppers: While peppers can be harvested at any time, the best time to harvest them is when the reach full size and are fully ripened. Unripe peppers will be green so wait for your peppers to fully change to their final color as this is when they are fully ripened.