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Bell Pepper

Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality

Marita Cantwell                                                                                        

Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis

Maturity & Quality

Maturity Indices

Green Peppers: fruit size, firmness, color
Colored Peppers: minimum 50% coloration

Quality Indices

  • Uniform shape, size and color typical of variety
  • Firmness
  • Freedom from defects such as cracks, decay, sunburn

Maturity & Quality Photos

Title: Maturity

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis  

Title: Ripeness Stages

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis 

Temperature & Controlled Atmosphere

Optimum Temperature

Peppers should be cooled as soon as possible to reduce water loss. Peppers stored above 7.5°C (45°F) suffer more water loss and shrivel. Storage at 7.5°C (45°F) is best for maximum shelf-life (3-5 weeks); peppers can be stored at 5°C (41°F) for 2 weeks, and although this reduces water loss, chilling injury will begin to appear after that period. Symptoms of chilling injury include pitting, decay, discoloration of the seed cavity, softening without water loss. Ripe or colored peppers are less chilling sensitive than green peppers.

Optimum Relative Humidity

>95%; firmness of peppers is directly related to water loss

Rates of Respiration

Temperature 5°C (41°F) 10°C (50°F) 20°C (68°F)
ml CO2/kg·hr 3-4 5-8 18-20

To calculate heat production multiply ml CO2/kg·hr by 440 to get BTU/ton/ day or by 122 to get kcal/metric ton/day.

Rates of Ethylene Production

Bell peppers are nonclimacteric in behavior and produce very low levels of ethylene: 0.1-0.2 µl/kg·hr at 10°C-20°C (50°F-68°F).

Responses to Ethylene

Bell Peppers respond very little to ethylene; to accelerate ripening or color change, holding partially colored peppers at warm temperatures of 20-25°C (68-77°F) with high humidity (>95%) is most effective.

Responses to Controlled Atmospheres (CA)

Peppers generally do not respond well to CA. Low O2 atmospheres (2-5% O2) alone have little effect on quality and high CO2 atmospheres (>5%) can damage peppers (pitting, discoloration, softening) especially if they are stored below 10°C (50°F). Atmospheres of 3% O2 + 5% CO2 were more beneficial for red than green peppers stored at 5°C (41°F) to 10°C (50°F) for 3-4 weeks.

Temperature & Controlled Atmosphere Photos

Title: Chilling Injury Symptoms

Photo Credit: Adel Kader, UC Davis 

Title: Internal Discoloration

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis  


Physiological and Physical Disorders

Blossom End Rot. This disorder occurs as a slight discoloration or a severe dark sunken lesion at the blossom end; it is caused by temporary insufficiencies of water and calcium and may occur under high temperature conditions when the peppers are rapidly growing.

Pepper Speck. This disorder appears as spot-like lesions that penetrate the fruit wall; cause is unknown; some varieties are more susceptible than others.

Chilling Injury. Symptoms of chilling injury include surface pitting, water-soaked areas, decay (especially Alternaria), and discoloration of the seed cavity.

Mechanical damage. (crushing, stem punctures, cracks, etc.) This is very common on peppers; physical injury not only detracts from the visual quality of the peppers but also causes increased weight loss and decay.

Pathological Disorders

On California-grown bell peppers, the most common decay organisms are Botrytis, Alternaria, and soft rots of fungal and bacterial origin.

Botrytis or Grey mold decay. This is a common decay-causing organism on peppers; field sanitation and prevention of wounds on the fruit help reduce its incidence. Botrytis will grow well at the recommended storage temperatures. High CO2 levels (>10%) which can control Botrytis damage peppers. Hot water dips of peppers can effectively control Botrytis rot (55°C [130°F] water for 4 minutes) without causing fruit injury.

Alternaria Rot. The presence of black Alternaria rot, especially on the stem end of the pepper is a symptom of chilling injury; best control measure is to store at 7.2°C (45°F).

Bacterial Soft Rot. Soft rotting areas can be caused by several bacteria which attack damaged tissue; soft rots can also be common on washed or hydrocooled peppers where water sanitation was deficient.

[For more information, see our publication “ Fruit Ripening & Ethylene Management ”, available for purchase using our Publication order form .]

Disorders Photos

Title: Alternaria Rot

Photo Credit: Adel Kader, UC Davis 

Title: Bacterial Soft Rot

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis

Title: Decay

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis

Title: Greenhouse Pepper Defects

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis

Title: Mechanical Damage and Decay

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis

Title: Physical Damage

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis

Title: Shriveling

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis

Title: Solar Yellowing

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis

Title: Sun Damage

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis

Title: Sun Scald

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis


August 1996

Use of Materials

The UC Postharvest Technology Center grants users permission to download textual pages (including PDF files) from this World Wide Web site for personal use or to reproduce them for educational purposes, but credit lines and copyright notices within the pages must not be removed or modified.

Except for these specified uses, no part of the textual materials available on the UC Postharvest Technology Center Web site may be copied, downloaded, stored in a retrieval system, further transmitted or otherwise reproduced, stored, disseminated, transferred or used, in any form or by any means, except as permitted herein or with the University of California's prior written agreement. Request permission from UC Postharvest Technology Center. Distribution for commercial purposes is prohibited.

The information in this fact sheet represents our best understanding of the current state of knowledge at the time of the latest update, and does not represent an exhaustive review of all research results. Links to any of these UC Postharvest Technology Center pages are permitted, but no endorsement of the linking site or products mentioned in the linking page is intended or implied by such a link.

How to Cite

Author(s) names. Initial publication or update date (located at the top). Title. Link to the specific Produce Fact Sheet webpage (Accessed date)

Example: Cantwell, M. and T. Suslow. 2002. Lettuce, Crisphead: Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality. (Accessed January 18, 2014).

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