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Why Are My Peppers Black? (Hint: It’s Probably Natural)

One of the reasons I love growing peppers so much is the great diversity of options. From the huge, sweet bell pepper, to the gnarly and superhot 7 pot bubblegum. Every gardener can choose the perfect chili for their tastes.

Some of the most common peppers are known to turn black, while others start out black, and ripen to another color later. In this article, I’ll discuss some of the possible reasons your peppers are black.


Why Are My Peppers Turning Black?

The most likely reason that your peppers are turning black is that they are ripening. All peppers will change color when they reach a fully mature state, including jalapeños, bell peppers, banana peppers, and poblanos.

Jalapenos in particular are known to change from green to a dark, almost black color, before turning bright red. This is completely normal and is nothing to worry about! Blackening can also happen to banana peppers and many other types as they ripen.

Jalafuego Pepper black
Jalapeño pepper turning black before ripening to red (natural).

Essentially, the black color indicates that the ripening process has started. If you pick your peppers black, then they will most likely continue to ripen off of the plant to their final color.

This color change is desirable, as a red jalapeno will have more sweetness than an unripe green pepper. In most cases, we allow our peppers to fully change color before picking, and then pick them promptly. Learn more about when to pick your peppers here.

Jalapeno Pepper Ripening
Another jalapeno beginning to turn black as it ripens.

Sunscald

Another possible reason your peppers are turning black is from direct sun exposure. Most large pepper varieties will hang down below the plant’s leaves as they grow, and the foliage provides shade. When the skin of a pepper is exposed to direct sunlight, it may develop sunscald.

Sunscald can appear black, brown or even white in severe cases. However, unless the exposure is all day long, the burn will usually look like a minor discoloration on the pepper’s skin.

Sunscald on peppers
Sunscald on a purirra pepper – black color from excess sun exposure.

If left alone, exposed peppers can become seriously burned, softening the skin and inviting mold to grow. Try to keep the peppers shaded by the plant’s leaves whenever possible. One great way to reduce sunscald on peppers is to use proper plant spacing. The nearby plants will help shade one another as their peppers grow and ripen.


Black Pepper Varieties

While some of the common peppers briefly turn black before ripening, other varieties are black from the start. There are many different shapes and sizes of black peppers you can grow from seed.

The peppers may appear black, but they are actually a very deep purple color. This is due to the high levels of anthocyanin in the pepper’s skin, causing the pods to turn a deep rich color.

Black jalapeno pepper plant and peppers
Purple jalapeño peppers (unripe).

The purple jalapeno is one of the more popular choices for black peppers, and grows just like a normal jalapeno. The pods will be dark black as they grow and develop, eventually turning a deep red when they are fully ripe.

Fun Fact: Most black pepper varieties will be darkest when they are exposed to more light. The anthocyanin compounds are activated by light, so the black foliage and fruits will be darkest in full sun.

Black pearl pepper pods on plant
Black pearl chili peppers (unripe).

Most of the black chiles you can buy will be marketed as ‘purple’ peppers, and this is technically true. If you grow one of them, tell your friends that the peppers are dark for the same reason blueberries are (anthocyanins).

Hungarian Black Pepper
Hungarian black sweet chili pepper (unripe).

If you didn’t know about the various black peppers, why not grow some in your garden? They are just as easy to grow, taste similar, but are much more interesting than green types.


Blossom End Rot

If you are growing bell peppers or other large varieties, you may be dealing with blossom end rot. This condition is not actually rot, but a calcium uptake issue that is linked to watering.

Affected plants will usually have large, brown to black spots on the blossom end (bottom) of fruits. It is most common early in the season on the first few fruits that develop.

Blossom End Rot Bell Pepper
Blossom end rot on a bell pepper.

How do I stop blossom end rot? The best method of preventing blossom end rot is to water consistently. Avoid long periods of severe drought, followed by heavy watering. If rainfall is heavy and sporadic in your area, this may be the cause, so make sure your soil drains well.

Thankfully, you can still eat the unaffected parts of a pepper with blossom end rot. Just cut around the dark spot and inspect the inside of the pepper for any mold or other issues before eating.


Black Spots On Peppers (Disease or Pests)

The final reason you may be seeing your peppers turn black is from pests or disease. There are many pests that can impact pepper plants, and sometimes the symptoms come as black spots on the fruits.

Spotted Oro de Ecuador pepper
Black spot damage on pepper pods.

These spots can be caused by the larvae of insects that lay their eggs inside of pepper fruits. As the larvae hatch, they consume the fruits, leaving behind black spots. The pepper weevil is one such pest that is common in the Southern US.

There are also bacterial spot diseases that can impact both leaves and fruits. If you suspect disease is the culprit, look for uniform spread of the black spots across the whole plant. If your plants are diseased, it is usually best to remove them from the garden.

Disease on Fresno pepper anthracnose
Anthracnose on fresno pepper.

Infected plants can often spread disease to other plants that they come in contact with. Always wash your hands after handling a diseased plant to prevent this.

Next year, spend some time researching disease-resistant pepper varieties. For example, if you live in a region that is susceptible to tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), look for hybrids that have been bred to resist the virus and you will have much more success.


So, have you figured out why your peppers are black? I hope that it is due to natural causes and nothing more serious. Thankfully, there are several good reasons that your peppers are changing colors, most likely that they are beginning to ripen. Happy harvesting!

Calvin Thumbnail

Calvin

One of the original Pepper Geeks! When Calvin isn’t gardening or learning more about peppers and botany, he might be traveling new places or playing some music.