How can I tell if bell peppers have gone bad?
I regularly buy bell peppers from a local supermarket, but unfortunately they don't always have the freshest vegetables. Sometimes I can tell that the peppers have gone bad when they have brown spots or even mold, but more than once now I have bought peppers that looked fine from the outside but when I opened them they had mold in them and smelled bad. On the other hand I also had peppers that were very wrinkly or had dark seeds, but other than that seemed fine.
So my question is: How do I know if a bell pepper has gone bad?
- What are indicators that a pepper has gone bad?
- Are there indicators that I can see or feel from the outside?
You may want to consider shopping elsewhere -- stores that over-buy on produce and let it rot in the display is never good. I find that the stores in more heavily hispanic or asian areas near me tend to have faster turnover of produce. Non-chain stores tend to adjust their prices so they have less problems (or they're just better at pulling out the problem stuff before I notice)
@Joe Unfortunately I don't have much choice where to go shopping, as the only store I know to regularly have fresh vegetables is expensive and far away. Most stores around me seem to over-buy it seems, it's really a shame. Thanks for your answer, it's really helpful :)
I once found *spiders* inside a bell pepper. I live in the UK, needless to say we don't get the freshest food ever over here...
@SteveDL : was there a hole in the pepper? I typically find things more caterpillar like : http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/pepper/worms-on-peppers.htm . Most commercially grown produce uses enough pesticides so this isn't an issue. (if you're buying organic produce, they might still use an organic pesticide)
I was actually baffled not to be able to find any hole. I just couldn't explain how they got in but they had been there for a while (webs...). They were dead, too. Generally speaking the peppers from that chain are very disappointing in freshness. I don't mind the extra proteins but I mind soft peppers.
Here are a few things to be wary of when buying peppers:
- Wrinkled skin -- it's a sign that they're drying out. It should be firm and smooth.
- Soft areas -- it's a sign that it's starting to rot in areas. It should be firm all over.
- Fuzz near the stem or blossom end -- you can't always see outward signs of the fuzzy mold, but if you do, it'll be right around where the stem attaches, or in the crevice on the other side.
- Cracks -- it's a sign that someone's dropped it, and opens up the possibility of rotting faster
- Spots -- besides the soft areas, you can get small dots in an area ... it's a sign of disease. (I'm not sure which; I typically get this when growing my own, don't see it in the store).
- Holes -- a sign that there's an insect that's eaten its way inside. (again, I see this more on home grown ones)
Things that aren't always a problem:
- Discoloration : if it's a green pepper, it might start turning red, yellow or orange. Red peppers might have an area that looks black or brown. So long as that area isn't soft, and the color changes look blended in (not where it's an obvious line between colors), it's fine.
- Weight : you typically want heavier specimens, but some varieties are thinner skinned, and won't be as heavy. If you find one that seems abnormally light, compare it to similar sized ones in the display. If they're all the same, and don't have wrinkled skin, they're probably okay.
- White lines : you typically see this more on hot peppers, but it can happen on bell peppers, too. They'll be roughly parallel to each other, along the line from stem to blossom. It's a sign that they got a sudden burst of water while growing, which caused the skin to crack (but then heal).
- Folds : some varieties of peppers are more balloon-like, while others may have a few folds; so long as it's still smooth skin (not wrinkled), relatively heavy for its size, and you don't see fuzz in the folds, it's not an issue.
To add more detail about discolouration, the peppers are initially green and turn red/yellow/orange as they ripen. Obviously, the colour change doesn't happen instantaneously so you might find a green pepper that's starting to turn brown/red in places, or a red pepper that's still a bit brown/green in some places. That's just an intermediate stage of ripening.
@DavidRicherby : exactly. If it's still a bit green (seems to happen most often on yellow peppers), it'll have a grassier, less sweet quality to it ... so you might want to pass it up for that reason, but it's not a sign that it's to be avoided because it's gone bad.
Lucky Peach just had an article on what to avoid in produce : http://luckypeach.com/how-to-tell-if-food-is-safe-to-eat/