What you see: A pepper growing inside a pepper
What it is: A misfire in the pepper’s seed-making apparatus
Eat or toss? Eat! Consider this bonus pepper
Mutant pepper? Pepper worms? Part of an evil pepper-driven plot to freak out home cooks and take over kitchens around the world?
They may look a little alarming, but I see these curious characters somewhat frequently and am happy to report that there’s nothing to worry about. You can eat the pepper, and its little mini pepper creatures too.
These formations are called “carpelloid structures” or “internal proliferations.” Ultimately they happen because, for some reason, the structures responsible for forming at least one of the pepper’s seeds went a bit haywire. Normally, ovules, a critical part of plant reproduction, develop into seeds. Peppers have lots of ovules, which is why they have lots of seeds. But in the cases pictured here, some ovules didn't proceed as planned, likely due to genetics. So, instead of making a nice, tidy, little seed, the peppers skipped some steps and launched into growing some pepper tissue.
Given their unconventional growth, the "carpelloid structure" texture may be a bit different from the rest of the pepper, notes Chris Gunter, who specializes in vegetable production at North Carolina State University. But they’re still perfectly edible. So, you get a little more salad tonight.
Chris Gunter - Vegetable Production Specialist for the commercial vegetable industry in North Carolina - North Carolina State University.
BMC Plant Biology, 2011. Parthenocarpic potential in Capsicum annuum L. is enhanced by carpelloid structures and controlled by a single recessive gene
Britannica - Parthenocarpy
Christian Science Monitor - Have you ever found a pepper inside a pepper?
Bite Sized Biology - The Peculiar Case of the Puny Pepper