The price of peppers

Why do red (and orange and yellow) bell peppers cost so much more than green ones? Is it just a popularity issue or are they harder to grow for some reason. (I assume they take longer, since IIRC, red bell peppers are just ripe green peppers.)

It’s a stupidity issue with farmers.

Remember when a president (Carter?) said US lettuce farmers wouldn’t be so poor if they would only switch to Endive and Redicio, which we import.

Same idea. If farmers don’t do the math. They think everything is a fad even if it’s been going on for 5 years.

So they don’t try to cash in, so yellow is scarce, so the middlemen charge more to the grocery stores.

Besides the usual inertia, I would also venture that since the peppers must remain on the vine longer in order to reach the desired color, there are higher losses due to rot and pests. This would drive up the pricing all by itself.

As Zenster notes, green peppers, being unripe peppers, are picked earlier. Peppers do not continue to ripen off the vine like tomatoes. If you want your peppers to turn red/yellow/purple you need to keep growing them for several more weeks. Obviously, this increases the cost, as the farmer has to care for them as they mature and there will be losses not only to disease and pests but to over-ripening. The process of ripening also seems to make the flesh somewhat less firm (though I do not know this for sure; just my experience) so they may be more prone to breakage in transport and storage.

Another factor seems to be that the quality standards (or consumer expectations) seem to be quite low for green bell peppers, but very high for red/yellow/gold ones. In every supermarket I’ve ever visited, the green bells are always of rather low quality – lots of blemishes, cracks in the skin, etc., while the other colors are perfect (especially the reds).

Of course, it may just be that the farmers pick the blemished, aesthetically challenged peppers green, leaving the good ones to ripen more fully.

Okaaaaaay…so why is it that, in the UK, red, green and yellow peppers all cost the same?

I’ve read that peppers produce a substance when they ripen that causes the plant to stop producing fruit. If the peppers are picked green you can get multiple crops from a plant, if you let them ripen you only get one. I know of other plants with similar mechanisms, so I think it’s quite possible that this is true. It may be that in England the peppers are grown in a shorter growing season, so only 1 crop can be produced per season, not matter the ripeness.

And 2cense, thanks for supporting the belief that all farmers are stupid. You’re a real prince.

Yes, I’m with Duke, it seems like all the common colors of peppers (green, yellow, red and occasionaly orange) are the same price here in Germany. I was shocked when I went to the States and found that a red bell pepper was several times the price of a green one.
This is going to drive me batty, so somebody please answer!

And re: the growing season, I’ll have to check at the market tomorrow, but I’m thinking that most of the peppers sold in Germany (and probably the UK as well) are imported from Spain or Italy or someplace with a warmer climate & longer growing season. I’ll look into that.

I’m not sure it can be put down to climate. The price difference holds even here in Southern California in places where you drive past the pepper fields to get to the supermarket.

Being an extension agent in horticulture, I can tell you that it does indeed cost farmers more to get ripe (e.g. red or yellow) peppers to market than unripe (green) ones for several reasons:

  1. Green peppers are firmer and you have fewer losses during shipping.

  2. A pepper plant will keep making peppers if you pick the green ones off of it. If you let any peppers ripen, the plant will not make any more peppers. So the choice is between lots of green peppers or fewer ripe ones.

  3. More inputs in the way of pesticides are required for peppers that stay on the plant longer. The longer a fruit is on the plant, the more time it has to be eaten by an insect or hit by hail.

I have no idea why ripe and green peppers are the same price in other countries. Maybe its what the market will bear. Maybe labor is cheap enough elsewhere to keep the prices of ripe peppers down. Any ag economists on this board?

Also, 2cense, one thing I have learned working in agriculture is that farmers are far from stupid. Like my bumper sticker says: “If you ate today, thank a farmer”

Having shopped for produce in Europe, I’d likely wager that all peppers cost the same because even the green ones are effing already astronomically priced. No sense in gilding the lily.

I dunno about that Zenster, usually I pay between $1-2.50 (depending on the time of year) for a bag containing one green, one yellow and one red pepper. Is that really that much more than we pay in the States?

Maybe they do just average it out so that all the peppers cost the same. It seems like the most popular way to sell them here is in those bags containing one of each color.

I don’t think it could be the cost of labor, since it seems like it’s even more expensive here than elsewhere (and for things produced in other countries the transportation costs are sky high and would void any labor cost savings.)

Oh well, I guess I’ll just eat my fill of red and yellow peppers while I’m here…

Customers will pay more for red, yellow, and orange peppers. They usually cost the supermarket more but having worked in produce for many years, I also know stores feel free to mark these peppers way up. It helps pay for items like lettuce and broccoli, which for some reason are very price sensative for customers. Few people seem to care what a pretty red bell pepper costs. They just buy it. If I should charge $1.99 for red peppers (at the average 1.5 mark-up), I’ll charge $2.99 instead and make a lot more money. Then I can mark my lettuce down to competitive advertising rates.

I’ve done the extra dollar mark-up on colored peppers for years, only to have customers tell me what a great deal the peppers were because my competitor down the street was charging yet another dollar more.

Out-of-season colored peppers do cost a lot more, which adds to the customer confusion of what a pepper should retail. And, there are some amazing red and yellow peppers imported from Holland on the market,as well as some organic peppers from Israel. These actually do cost the store plenty more. They have thicker skin, and to my way of thinking, are well worth the premium pricing.

So are there any differences in the flavors of the various shades? Or are the different colors simply a matter of aesthetics? If it’s for looks only, and there is a price differential, I would just go ahead and buy the green pepper for most occasions.

There is a big difference between ripe and unripe peppers. Ripe peppers are much sweeter than green ones and are usually more tender. As far as generic supermarket red/yellow/orange peppers go, I don’t think there is much difference between the colors. They are grown for uniform size and long shelf life; in short, they are not the tastiest peppers available. If you shop at a farmer’s market or grow your own, you will find that there is great variety.