Male and Female Peppers: Fact or Urban Myth?

Today, we have access to so much information online. Never before, though, has it been so important to check multiple sources and separate fact from fiction, to weed out the wheat from the chaff.

Have you ever heard someone claim that peppers come in male and female forms? Google it and the second result on page 1 states quite clearly that this is the case…

But it isn’t!

What Is The Myth About Male and Female Bell Peppers?

male and female peppers

If you grow your own fruit and vegetables, chances are you’ll have some peppers somewhere in your organic crop.

One of the first mistakes people make with peppers is to believe that they are vegetables when they are actually fruits. Much like a tomato, we do not naturally associate them with the more commonplace fruits but that’s exactly what they are.

A further theory often put forward is that peppers can be separated by gender. Like many theories, just because it is often repeated does not mean it’s true.

The story goes that the number of lobes on the pepper determines the sex. The theorists claim that 3 lobes signals a male pepper while peppers with 4 are female.

To take it further, the suggestion is that male peppers are better to cook with while the females, sweeter and filled with more seeds, are preferable eaten raw.

Sounds pretty plausible, right?


What Does The Number of Lobes Actually Mean?

are peppers male and female


There is certainly no relationship between the number of lobes and the gender of peppers. Bell peppers can have anywhere from 2 to 5 lobes whereas the urban myth says that they can have only 3 or 4.

Rather than pointing to gender, the number of lobes actually indicates the type of bell pepper. The US is obviously a huge market and the peppers with 4 lobes are for various reasons the most popular in America. For this reason, many more of these have been bred.

Peppers are members of the nightshade family. All members of this family have both stamens and carpels. This means that their reproductive systems are both male and female. The flowers they create are therefore unisex or hermaphroditic.


Peppers are genderless rather than identifiable as male or female. This is not true of many plants which have both male and female flowers, whether they grow on the same plant or separately.

Are “Female” Peppers Sweeter Or Is This Another Myth?

The sweetness or sourness of a pepper has nothing whatsoever to do with the number of lobes.

4 key factors influence this and it’s not due to the quantity of lobes or gender…

  1. How long you decided to leave your peppers on the vine
  2. The particular type of pepper
  3. The variety of soil in which they’re grown
  4. Weather conditions

Properly aged bell peppers are always going to be sweeter regardless of the lobe count.

Are There More Seeds In Bell Peppers With 4 Lobes?

This part of the story holds some water.

Seeds need plenty of space in which to grow. Peppers with more lobes have more cavity space and therefore often – but not always – this variety of pepper has more bountiful seeds.

The white tissue and seeds can be contained within one chamber or several different chambers. Again, the number of chambers does not always guarantee more seeds but there is certainly more chance of an increased number with this 4-lobe pepper.


They say the best lies have more than a grain of truth in them.

The same is the case with urban legends. When you examine the evidence, it’s easy to see why people are tricked into believing this myth.

Experts have weighed in and poured scorn on this Pinterest and Facebook-fuelled rumour…

David Karp (UC Riverside) is a renowned pomologist – someone who studies fruits – and he gave his opinion on this issue back in 2013. You can read here his assertion that peppers are without gender.

The lesson to be learned is to always check your sources and not to believe everything you read, especially when it’s information found online.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions. Also, if you have any other topics you’d like us to investigate, feel free to send us your ideas as we are here to give you exactly what you want.

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Dianne T. Lampe

Hi there, I’m Dianne! Welcome to a one-stop shop for your gardening needs. We aim here to offer up a very wide range of information about many aspects of gardening. From flowers and planting through to vegetables and accessories, find all the information you need here. We have a true passion for everything green. We’re highly motivated to develop this site continuously and offer any insights we can alongside useful facts and handy hints. Please get in touch and let us know what you would like us to cover. Thoughts and feedback are always welcomed. Enjoy!

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