Have you noticed some of your peppers turning an inky black? Don’t panic – those dark spots and streaks don’t necessarily spell disaster for your crop.
As an experienced gardener, you know peppers can turn shades of black and purple as part of the natural ripening process. But black lesions on unripe fruits are cause for concern. The good news is, with proper care and quick action, you can still get a bountiful harvest.
What causes peppers to turn black prematurely? Direct sun exposure can lead to sunscald, causing black sunburnt spots on fruits. Fungal diseases like anthracnose and blossom end rot also cause inky black dots or pits. Other culprits include viral infections, which create dark streaks, and calcium deficiencies that rot blossom tips.
The key is identifying the cause so you can take action:
- Sunscald – Provide shade, acclimate plants to sun, use sun-tolerant varieties
- Fungal diseases – Improve airflow, remove infected fruit, use fungicides
- Viral infections – Control insects, remove infected plants immediately
- Calcium deficiency – Maintain soil moisture, add calcium amendments
While disheartening at first glance, black peppers don’t have to ruin your crop. Monitor plants closely, act fast when you spot issues, and reap a colorful harvest.
Curious to learn more about what causes peppers to turn black and how to troubleshoot the problem? Read on as we dive deeper into the common culprits and solutions.
One of the most frequent reasons for black spots on peppers is sunscald. This happens when peppers are exposed to intense, direct sunlight. The black lesions are sunburnt areas on the fruit. To prevent sunscald:
- Provide shade for plants during the hottest part of the day. Use shade cloth, row covers, or grow them on the east side of larger plants.
- Gradually acclimate seedlings to direct sun before transplanting. Start them in partial shade and slowly increase light.
- Use resistant pepper varieties like Jalapeño, Anaheim, and Ancho. Bell peppers are more prone to sunscald.
- Paint or spray fruits with kaolin clay or a commercial product like Surround WP. This protective barrier reflects sunlight. Reapply after rain.
Blossom End Rot
Another disorder that affects pepper tips is blossom end rot. Instead of spots, this causes a sunken black lesion on the bottom of fruits. The cause is a calcium deficiency worsened by uneven soil moisture. Stop blossom end rot by:
- Maintaining consistent soil moisture. Use drip irrigation and mulch. Avoid water stress.
- Boosting calcium levels. Add bone meal or crushed eggshells to planting holes. Spray plants with calcium chloride.
- Choosing resistant varieties like gypsy pepper, paprika, and cayenne. Bell peppers are very susceptible.
- Removing affected fruits so the plant stops wasting energy on them.
Fungal and Bacterial Diseases
Black spots on pepper leaves and fruits can also be caused by fungal or bacterial diseases. Common culprits include:
- Anthracnose – Causes small, sunken black lesions on ripe fruit.
- Cercospora leaf spot – Leaf spots turn black and spread. Fruits develop leathery black pits.
- Bacterial spot – Produces black, water-soaked spots on leaves that fall out leaving shot holes. Fruits develop black, scabby spots.
You can reduce disease problems by:
- Removing weeds. They harbor pathogens.
- Avoiding overhead watering. Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses.
- Increasing airflow and plant spacing. Crowding causes humidity buildup.
- Applying fungicides and copper sprays as a preventive treatment.
- Using resistant varieties like Anaheim, Ancho, and Cayenne peppers.
Viruses like tobacco mosaic can also cause black streaks inside and on the skin of pepper fruits. Since viruses cannot be cured, prevention is key:
- Remove and destroy plants with symptoms immediately to avoid spread.
- Control aphids and cucumber beetles – they transmit viruses.
- Wash hands and disinfect tools after working with infected plants.
- Do not smoke near the garden, as tobacco transmits viruses.
- Plant resistant varieties like serrano, poblano, and tabasco peppers.
Finally, don’t forget peppers naturally turn dark colors as they ripen! Purple, brown, and black shades develop on most varieties. This is not a problem as long as the pepper plant and fruits look healthy otherwise. Enjoy the range of colors as the fruits progress from green to fully ripe.
The good news is with proper care and preventive measures, you can still get a bountiful, colorful harvest of delicious peppers – even if some of them turn black along the way. Monitor your plants closely, act fast at the first sign of disease, and you’ll be rewarded with armloads of vibrant peppers.
Can You Eat Peppers That Are Turning Black?
Seeing those inky pepper fruits, you may wonder – are black peppers safe to eat? The answer depends on the cause.
Peppers turning black due to natural ripening are perfectly fine to eat. The dark pigments are just chlorophyll breaking down as part of the maturation process. The pepper’s flavor at this ripe stage will be rich, complex, and sweet.
However, black spots caused by sunscald, blossom end rot, or diseases may impart off-flavors. Sunscald and blossom end rot create dry, leathery spots that don’t taste very appealing. Disease-related lesions can leave fruits mushy.
To be safe, cut open the pepper and inspect the interior. If the inside looks healthy with no dark streaks, the flesh should be fine to use. But if you notice extensive dark blemishes or decay, it’s best to discard the fruit.
The bottom line – let your taste buds be the judge. Sample a small piece of blackened pepper. If it tastes normal, the rest of the fruit is likely still usable. When in doubt, play it safe and throw it out to avoid spreading disease.
Are There Any Health Benefits to Eating Black Peppers?
Beyond adding culinary diversity, fully ripened black peppers can positively impact your health.
The phytochemicals that give black peppers their dark purple, brown, and inky hues are called flavonoids. These compounds have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
Specifically, black peppers contain the flavonoids luteolin and quercetin. Luteolin may help fight cancer, improve brain function, and reduce inflammation. Quercetin boosts heart health, supports immunity, and acts as an antihistamine.
In addition to flavonoids, black peppers have good amounts of vitamin C and vitamin A precursors known as carotenoids. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that aids immune function and iron absorption. Carotenoids promote eye and skin health.
So don’t be afraid to embrace the dark side of peppers! Choosing fully ripened, black-colored fruits will provide a burst of flavor and nutrients.
Just be aware that any visible mold, mushy spots, or off odors mean the pepper should be discarded. And as delicious as they are, don’t overindulge – a few servings a week is enough to enjoy the benefits of black peppers.