Have you ever cut open a bell pepper, only to discover that it has turned brown inside? This is highly frustrating and also seems odd – how can there be damage inside the vegetable when the outside looks fine?
There are a few things that can cause a bell pepper to turn brown inside, including blossom end rot, seeds dying inside the pepper, and subtle damage to the pepper’s skin. Any of these could result in brown discoloration inside the vegetable.
It’s frustrating to waste vegetables that you have grown or paid for, so if you’ve found bell peppers that have gone brown inside, you might be annoyed and concerned. Let’s find out a bit more about what causes this and whether the pepper is safe to eat.
Why Is My Bell Pepper Brown Inside?
Your bell pepper may be brown inside if the plant got blossom rot while it was growing its fruits. Blossom end rot occurs when the flower on the plant starts to rot before the fruit has fully formed, introducing moisture to the fruit, which may get inside and cause it to start breaking down.
This usually happens if the plant is deficient in calcium, which often occurs if the level of water in the soil fluctuates a lot. The demand for calcium will start to exceed the plant’s ability to supply it, and this will cause the flower’s tissues to break down, causing blossom end rot and allowing bacteria and fungi to enter the fruit.
Alternatively, your bell pepper may be brown inside because there is some other form of damage to the outside of the pepper, and this allows oxygen to get at the inner flesh. Oxygen causes the cells of fruits and vegetables to break down gradually, creating a brown color as compounds are released from the degrading cells and react with each other.
You may not notice the damage on the pepper if it is minor, but any splits in the skin will lead to this sort of breakdown, and could result in the inside of the pepper being brown, even if the outside looks good. Often, the outside will be mushy and soft in the damaged area, but this isn’t always the case.
Why Are My Pepper Seeds Brown?
Sometimes, the seeds of the pepper will go brown even if the rest of the fruit is fine, and this usually means that the seeds failed to form properly and have therefore died off inside the pepper.
They are degrading and – as described above – turning brown as compounds are released and interact with each other.
Your pepper seeds may cause browning in the rest of the flesh, but generally, only the seeds will go brown (or even black) as a result of malformation. If the seeds are brown in clusters, you can cut these away, but make sure you inspect the nearby flesh closely to see whether it is going to be okay to eat.
Normally, pepper seeds are white or creamy, but dry pepper seeds can turn brown – so if you’ve left a cut pepper in your fridge, this may occur. This is nothing to worry about; simply remove the seeds and eat the rest of the pepper.
Is It Safe To Eat Brown Pepper?
You might be wondering whether you can cut up and eat a pepper that has gone brown inside. Firstly, note that this will be safer if you are cooking it, because cooking will help to destroy any bacteria in the flesh (although this isn’t a sure way to make foods safe so don’t depend upon it too heavily). Raw pepper is slightly more likely to make you sick.
There are a few things you should look at when determining whether a pepper is safe to eat, including:
- Whether the flesh is mushy
- Whether it smells strange
- How far the discoloration has spread
- Whether a little sample of the flesh tastes sour or unusual
You should always cut the brown parts out of the pepper, and then inspect the remaining flesh with these things in mind. If a lot of the pepper has turned brown, gone mushy, or developed a strange smell, you should throw it away as it will not be safe to eat. Peppers should be firm and smell only of pepper.
If you aren’t sure, it should be safe to cut a small sample off your pepper and taste it; if it tastes okay, the pepper should be okay to eat. However, if it tastes sour or odd, throw the pepper away and spit out the piece you have tasted.
Is The Brown Color Mold?
The brown color inside a pepper is not usually related to mold, but it does indicate that mold could be present in the flesh. In general, the brown is produced by compounds reacting as the cell walls break down and release them, rather than by fungus or bacteria.
However, the fact that the cell walls are breaking down is a good indication that the fruit is going off, and that mold is likely to be present within the plant’s cells. You may not be able to see or smell it yet if there is only a small amount present, but it has probably begun to form.
This is why you shouldn’t eat brown parts of the pepper; they are not likely to be safe, even if you wash and cook them. They may also have an unpleasant texture, as they will be mushy and lack the crisp “snap” that is usually associated with peppers.
Cut away the brown parts and compost them even if you cannot see any signs of mold. They are not likely to be safe to eat and they will not be pleasant or nutritious regardless. If the remaining flesh is still firm, you can eat this.
So, the answer to why is my bell pepper brown inside is that the vegetable has probably been damaged in some way and oxygen and bacteria or fungal spores have entered the vegetable. You can cut away the brown parts and cook and eat the rest.