Botanically, there is no difference between sweet peppers (bell peppers) and hot peppers. Both are derived from species of Capsicum family. All sweet peppers are selections of C. annuum and were not developed until the 1800’s in Europe, the result of a recessive gene mutation that produced a pepper without the usual ‘hot’ flavor.
Producing fruits in different colors, including red, yellow, orange, green, or purple, bell peppers are sometimes grouped with less pungent pepper varieties as “sweet peppers.” Red peppers are simply ripened green peppers. Green peppers are less sweet and slightly bitterer than yellow or orange peppers, with red bell peppers being the sweetest.
Compared to green peppers, red peppers have more vitamins and nutrients and contain the antioxidant lycopene. The level of carotene, like lycopene, is nine times higher in red peppers. Red peppers have twice the vitamin C content of green peppers and three times of the fruit of an orange. Peppers are a good source of most B vitamins, vitamin B6 in particular. They are also high in potassium, magnesium, and iron.
Bell pepper plants will ripen only one fruit at a time. The darker the color of the fruit, the sweeter the flavor! Pepper plants produce fruit in cycles, new fruit will set after the first flush is harvested. Under ideal growing conditions, each plant may produce up to 8-10 fruits if harvested regularly. To harvest, cut the stem about an inch above the fruit. Pulling the fruit off is not recommended as it may damage the plant. Peppers are ready for harvest when they are shiny, firm, and when they will turn back to their original shape after being lightly squeezed.